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.
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. Listen,
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.
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.
Obvious of course, now and in the beginning: God is not a perfectionist. Good at detail for sure, and drama, but lacking the compulsion to get every piece of punctuation in its proper place, ever. And forever forgetting the finishing touches: a proper frame, that final proofreading.
Tempting to be critical of such sloppiness, all those excesses and omissions. For instance, surely there is too much sadness to go around, more than what’s necessary for lessons and poetry.
But I don’t mean there is no serious business here. Only that there is something else on the canvas, an art in line and color, a splash of mystery, a priority of passion perhaps, well beyond the right answer and its rush of applause, something still seeping into our soil.
Mark Bustos, a stylist at an upscale salon in Manhattan, gives free haircuts to homeless people every Sunday, his only day off from work. He started the practice during a trip two years ago to the Philippines. The response was so enthusiastic that he decided to make the same offer in New York. Many of the people whose hair he cuts are very thankful. He especially remembers the man who, after seeing what he looked like with his new haircut, asked, “Do you know anyone that’s hiring?” (The Week, August 29).