Monthly Archives October 2023

Embracing the Gods: “Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World”

Somehow or other I missed this poem all these years, despite its prominence in anthologies and wide acclaim for its author, Jane Hirshfield. “Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World” is a dramatic, “big” poem—big in ambition, imagery, and theme. Hirshfield is not content here to search for heaven in a wildflower or angel dust on a vase.

Not that there’s anything wrong with such poetic devices, as Hirshfield herself would surely attest.

But when her second line launches in on a “strange and frightening creature” that we know from the title is a “white bull,” we had better prepare for what I suspect Hirshfield would be happy to see turned into the poetic ride of our lives, jostling us out of whatever numbness has descended as we go about responding routinely about routine challenges in a routine world.

“Not on your life!” her white bull says.

We know these things happen; even as children we c...

Read More

Answering Alzheimer’s: Amy Bloom’s “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss”

Amy Bloom gets right down to it in her 2022 memoir, “In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss.” The city of Zurich and the fact of her husband Brian’s Alzheimer’s disease comes up in the first paragraph as the couple boards a plane headed to that Swiss city. Their purpose for the trip is revealed in the fourth paragraph, which begins with these two stout declarative sentences:

“Dignitas’s office is in Zurich, and that’s where we’re headed. Dignitas is a Swiss nonprofit organization offering accompanied suicide.”

Through the subsequent 200+ pages, the multi-talented, much-honored Bloom (novels, short stories, non-fiction, journalism, children’s books, screenplays, television scripts, college professorships, longtime clinical social worker) takes us along with her on that journey whose end she telegraphs to us in the book’s opening lines.

She does so by skillfully moving back and forth in time in short chapters th...

Read More

My Fever Dream of a Functional, Bi-Partisan Speaker of the House

Remember when Republicans stoutly and persistently referred to themselves as the party of law and order and personal decorum? Not for them the ragtag factionalism, irreverence and loosey-goosey relativism of the Democrats—the Republicans maintained discipline among their ranks and in their persons.

God, family, country—and long live the United States!

We’ll leave it to historians to determine the relative accuracy of the former Republican Party’s brand narrative, but there is one thing about which we can be certain: That Republican Party, assuming it ever existed at all, is no more.

Perhaps it will find or reform itself in another election cycle (more likely two or more), after the ghosts of Trumpian know-nothing populism finally run short of the rage, resentment and pure cultism that have served as the movement’s main fuel.

But for now, the true “party of Ronald Reagan”—of which the current party is b...

Read More

Brilliant Songs #41: Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License”

Sometimes an artist comes along who just knocks the legs right out from under you, and after you’ve picked yourself up you’re left wondering how such seemingly natural, God-given talent could have developed to the degree it has. (Though one of the answers is surely “lots of hard work.”)

This sense of amazement is all the more the case when the artist is a mere 20 years old, with a monster hit already in her rear view mirror and three Grammys on her shelf, still shining brightly after a debut album of all original material when she was 18 shot her into the stratosphere, a veritable babe in the musical woods.

…the few bits of data on a card underlie every avenue of grief and anger she explores as adulthood’s losses and emotional scarring are revealed as the costs of being human, and vulnerable, and alive.

We can’t always tell what any given artist’s long-term trajectory might be...

Read More