When I’m reading a joke out loud from a new joke book, I hear my voice start to falter, from laughter, almost to weep, from laughter, the way my sister’s voice did as a child or a woman, especially if somebody made a bathroom joke; and my father’s voice did, when he wasn’t just poking fun at someone, when he found something really funny; slapstick got him laughing that way, sometimes. A laughter beyond words, maybe beyond grief. As I hear myself laughing like them, with them, I say: a laughter beyond death.
I made a weekend visit to an Amish community in northern Indiana just days after the funerals of the Amish schoolgirls shot in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse. I happened to pass a schoolyard outside a one-room schoolhouse where a dozen or so Amish children were playing and staring out through the fence. It gave me chills.
The readiness is all, he says, but I’m not ready, not for this: the bluebird back before her time—that is, if she ever left—the winter soft as summer mist when pink buds swell too soon, surprising. Which should, it seems, be cause for joy, but, yet again, it is not so, for on this fragile island earth, ice fields melt, dark waters rise, and sweeping north in wild flight, swans bear within them seeds of death, not yet in bloom, but it will come when warbler, wood duck, raven, wren drop from the silent sky like stones; and in the green dawn no birds sing.
Television cemented stardom in the 1950s for many celebrities of radio, vaudeville and motion pictures—Lucille Ball, Milton Berle, even Alfred Hitchcock. The first TV star created by the infant medium was George Reeves.
These waters, I must trouble for myself, in an age of the absence of angels, as I plunge, first of the day to break the lambent surface of the pool, and commence my daily reaching after miracles, swimming laps at almost eighty-one. The miracle I seek these recent years has been defined, and then refined, by that old friendly temporizer, “yet”; no longer seeking not-to-die-at-all, just not-to-die-quite-yet, to win a couple bonus years, in which to pen another poem or two, to pile a few more chosen words onto this heap I have—for Oh so long—been working on. Any healing that might come will clearly have to be short term. Until, that is, I reach the final turn, take up my beggar’s bed, and walk.
Print books remain significantly more popular than digital books, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The bad news is that the number of people who reported reading a book in any format last year was 73 percent, down from 79 percent in 2011 when Pew first started gathering data on the reading habits of America (Publishers Weekly, September 16).