Essays

The Trouble with Ceremony

 

My grenadier, Specialist Taylor, did not attend our welcome home ceremony at the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Coralville, Iowa, because in the hour preceding the event, as we waited outside the hotel and as our families gathered in the big hall, his appendix burst.

The day was a nice one, . . .

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All Lines of Order

 

The Boquillas Trail is located in a remote corner of Big Bend National Park in Texas. It begins with several long steps sloping gently upward, followed by a number of shorter, steeper steps which veer out of sight to the left. The gravelly sand of each step is held in place by a half-buried log, . . .

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Hell and Reason

 

In February 1943, as a boy just shy of his eighteenth birthday, Charles Fisk wrote home to his parents in Massachusetts: “The work I am doing means nothing to me. That is, I don’t understand what the object of it is. Of course, the principle of the whole thing is secrecy, . . .

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On Slaughter and Praying: An Essay in Two Parts

Part One. Before Getting to My Desk 

Before getting to my desk this morning I’ve woken to the back of Luke’s spine in blue light and understood for the first time that is the image I have been dreaming of after working the “I” entirely out of a poem that didn’t need it. . . .

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Silent Dancing

We have a home movie of this party. Several times my mother and I have watched it together, and I have asked questions about the silent revelers coming in and out of focus. It is grainy and of short duration, but it’s a great visual aid to my memory of life at that time. . . .

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Night Piece

 

Sometimes the things dreamers do seem incomprehensible to others, and the world wonders why dreamers do not see the way others do.

—Queen Marie of Romania, at the dedication of the unfinished Maryhill Museum of Art, 1926

 

  . . .

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We Are All of Us Passing Through

 

I came through Monarch Pass in Colorado, fifteen thousand feet high and fourteen miles out of the nearest town—I came through on a 650cc Triumph motorcycle about dusk dark in late September of 1958. It was snowing lightly. I was freezing. I had been on the road for a little over a year, . . .

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Reliquaries

reliquary \ֽre-lə-ֽkwer-ē\ n. {Fr reliquaire, from ML reliquaiurium, from reliquia relic + Larium-ary—more at relic}: a casket, shrine, or container for keeping or exhibiting relics (remains, leavings, of a deceased person) 

—Webster’s Third New International Unabridged

  . . .

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Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness

How did I become a very old poet, and a polemicist at that? In the Writer’s Chronicle of December 2010 I described myself as largely self-educated. In an era before creative writing classes became a staple of the college curriculum, I was “piecemeal poetry literate”—in love with Gerard Manley Hopkins and A. . . .

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Black Plank

Every few minutes, my father pushes out of his armchair to take a tour of his house. He stops at the desk I’ve made of the table off the kitchen and flips through my books. He asks me again what I’m working on, what sort of job I have these days. . . .

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Near and Distant Bears

Suppose you are walking along a path in the woods, and as you round a bend you suddenly encounter a grizzly bear, just a few feet away, lumbering in your direction. How do you react? Before you have time to think, your body launches a flurry of responses—adrenaline and pain-killing endorphins and some two dozen other hormones surge into your bloodstream, . . .

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Coming Home to Earth: What Purse Seines, Pumpjacks, and a Twitter Feed from Space Taught One Worried Citizen about the Beauty of Climate Change in 2016

Summer camp. The Connecticut hills. Cumulous oaks and maples surround the glassy surface of the lake. At a distance the water looks black. Beneath my small hands, paddling forward, cupping down and pulling back, it sparkles, mica specks drifting in the sunlit water. Transparent minnows scatter below me. I can see clear to the bottom: gold and tawny sand, . . .

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