Friday, September 29, 2017
What You Missed that Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer.
She took questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.
After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.
by Brad Aaron Modlin
from the book Everyone At This Party Has Two Names
where do we find hope in the face of loss?
a burlap sack of beans, jars of salsa verde
making things grow
walking your daughter to school
watching your wife in a play
smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in a friend's 57 Thunderbird
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Ernst Haas, New York City, USA, 1981
Karl Baden, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 2009
Carolyn Drake, Breeze, Zhetisay Kazakhstan, 2009
from Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour
the inaugural show of The Positive View Foundation,
Somerset House, London
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Shakespeare believed in fate, order, and forgiveness; we believe in history, justice, and compassion – three pairings so similar as to sometimes seem the same, though they are not. The novelistic, psychological work of explaining why evil people are evil gets very little energy from him. His villains are the products not of trauma and history but of nature and destiny. He amputated Iago's motive for malignancy from the Italian story where he found Othello's tragedy, in order to make the evil more absolute. Even to ask if Shylock's graspingness is a product of his people's history of exclusion would not have seemed important to him. He wasn't looking for causes. Though not satisfying to our modern sense of psychology, this is actually psychologically quite satisfying. The malevolent people we encounter in life are mostly just like that. They don't have a particular trauma that, if addressed and cured, would stop them from being evil. They were creepy, malignant kids, too....
Shakespeare also believe in forgiveness in a way that we don't. Really rotten people get forgiven, in the comedies and romances, at least, in ways that still make us uneasy. In The Tempest, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, bad actors get easy outs. Even Shylock isn't killed. Dr Johnson thought the moment when Hamlet delays killing Claudius in order to deprive him of any chance of forgiveness was "too horrible to be read or to be uttered." We are much more ostentatiously compassionate and much more effectively vindictive. Small incidents of plagiarism end careers – not a rule that Shakespeare himself would have escaped – and sexual sins can place their perpetrators forever beyond the bounds of redemption. In Shakespeare, rotten people do rotten things, but if they stick around and say they're sorry they are forgiven. By contrast, we feel everyone's pain, forgive no one's trespasses."
Adam Gopnik, "Why Rewrite Shakespeare?"
The New Yorker, October 17, 2016
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
On the outskirts of Sychar,
I bear my empty water jar to Jacob's well.
Under searing sun this daily trek is only one
of the vexing complications of my day.
Mornings I wake with dryness. I've dreamed again
of water pots, spilling, cracking, falling into shards.
I rouse myself before others, to keep my tryst
with the tiny bird that darts and sings each morning.
by my door. This small fidelity is all
that whets my appetite for another day.
The sun is high. Each day’s a new beginning, they say.
I set out alone, turning over, like dusty prayer beads,
the usual string of questions:
How is each day new? I am who I am, and was
all the other beginnings. Where is my help?
Neither in me nor the man who is not my husband
and isn’t likely to stay. I look up to the hills.
Where is the one true worship that might lift me,
even me, to the heights? Where is running water
for this never-ending thirst? Where, in this heat
is there even one bird singing?
My throat is dry. My feet hurt. I'll do well
to fill my water pot and bear it home. I'll climb
no bless/ed mountain today. Would that God
were a man who’d come down off his holy hill
and give me a hand drawing water. Deep water
from Jacob’s ancient well. And sweet,
I want sweet water, I want a soaking —
water enough to set a small bird singing,
under this scorching Samaritan sky.
Saturday, February 04, 2017
old prescriptions, old chargers, broken headphones,
old towels, old bath mats, chipped mugs,
shoe boxes, old bills, dried pens,
old warranties, receipts,
event tickets, invitations, old nail polish,
party favours, broken jewelry,
Sunday, January 01, 2017
Other people's minds are a foreign country
in which we're guests, tourists, or strangers,
unsure where we are and what's expected of us.
People say things that they don't mean literally:
"Someday I am going to get my eyes open all the time
and then I will eat you and Lizzie both."
They tell jokes and they use ironic expressions:
"Make it extremely squalid and moving.
Are you at all acquainted with squalor?"
He'd had enough of what people said,
tips and tales, theories, tidbits.
If he could have it his way,
nobody would ever say anything again.
looking through this garbled, pearly whorled window,
he'd pulled a seven-foot coil of ingrown hair from an abscess
on the tip of a patient's tailbone,
theatrically slipping sleeping pills
into their tea,
a cluster of pastel plaster.
He was not well behaved in the girlfriend situation.
Unsuitability, resistance, seduction,
failure of imagination,
failure of courage,
the laws of nations,
the laws of physics,
the weight of history,
inertia of all sorts;
like an exotic dancer at a trustee's meeting.