Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No horror, no misery, and no childhood

1. "Halley's Comet" by Stanley Kunitz

Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there'd be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground's edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
"Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I'd share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family's asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.

Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street --
that's where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I'm the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.

2. from "The Old Country," by Ethan Coen

"I never met Michael Simkin's parents, though I have a vivid false memory of his father standing on the open lot upon which their house is to be built. His hands are on his hips and a pith helmet shades his eyes; he is directing the operations of a backhoe as it digs a trench for the ball return. Though I remember it now, years later, it is something I could have imagined only then. In the beginning there was fear, a deep shadow that goes with the gaudy colors of early youth. It shades Michael's father's face as he stands unmoved while around him heavy machinery roars and the earth trembles; it makes a monster of Slim the Talmud Torah goy; it dwells in the narrow creaking staircase of our own little home. Some forget that darkness, and the silence, and the chaos inside. But despite what Scripture says, it will never be banished, for without it there would be no horror, no misery, and no childhood.”

3. Trailer, "Where the Wild Things Are"