We Are the Eighth Day, © Melanie Weidner



Robert S. McNamara, the focus of The Fog of War, an Academy Award–nominated documentary directed by Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line), served as secretary of defense under the two presidents who took the U.S. into Vietnam—John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.


Fig tree dominates the garden,
gray and knobby against gray fog,
its bare branches grotesque.
Like the old, bent parishioners
my father would visit, taking me
along, a child. They stroked
my hands, my woolen dress,
reached out with cloudy eyes.

This tree reaches everywhere,
as though light can be caught.
Slow sun drains through, stirs
a wing. Then one morning
I see them, green tips of figs
hard as emeralds escaping
from every knuckled grasp.


Fish stories

Tim Burton’s Big Fish begins with a sentimental premise: an 11th-hour reconciliation between a dying father and his estranged son.

Heaven revised

The boy was thrown against the ground, his arms
flung wide so I could see
under the bent grille of the farmer’s truck
his narrow chest rise and fall—so I could hear
between the swish of passing cars
that click of breath and bone.

Even now I watch the rain—but there was no rain—
spark against the road. I see his hair—
but from where I stood his face was turned—
soaked against the ripe
fruit of his cheek.

the bus had stopped for gas.
I left my seat and walked across the empty lot
hoping for a sink to rinse my mouth.
I remember the black field
beyond the road, the moonless sky and how
I strained to tell heaven from earth.

Truth is, that morning no one was saved.
No one lit a cigarette and proclaimed Never again
to anything. Strange. How I can see
each orange fall from the bed of the truck,
thump onto the pavement and roll
gently to a stop.


Pileated woodpecker

He didn’t see me which is why I was able
To sit beneath him in bare woods, close enough
To almost touch his six-inch prehistoric beak,
Curved scimitar that searched and tapped
As he hopped, bobbing, up the oak.
His broad black back, shy sweep of wing,
Ungainly, yes, but such a sight, and
Better yet his outsized head topped
By a tuft of flaming red that stuck up straight,
And made me smile. A cartoon’s joke,
Yet he was real. So were my thoughts
That bitter day, mind and memory
Bleak as steel until I looked and saw and felt
The sudden wild gift of life.