“Our American culture has no poetry written into its origin. We inherited our poetry—mostly hymns and heroic couplets—from England, and we’ve tended, since the onset of the Industrial Age, to regard the medium itself as superfluous or frivolous, if not dangerous.”
A few years ago, a woman in Spain attempted to restore a nineteenth-century church fresco, but in doing so ruined it completely. The result is less Savior than surreal simian, the delicate portrait painted over with a crude, monstrous “face.” Since the election it has been hard to shake the feeling that reality has been made worse, unrecognizable, in precisely this way.
When I was seven years old, the INS raided the canyon behind my childhood home in San Diego. I remember how they pulled up onto our driveway and men emerged in uniforms with large guns.
Tangled against the river the red-gray thump of the feet of deer in the half-frozen mud and the sear of dry branches torn from the living, a yellow-orange strip of barkless wood on the trunk and the tender wet where the branch was torn crystallizing in the cold, and trees like a mesh of black oil.
In 1974, the year Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, my father, a man with rabbinic aspirations, was deep in his own pickle, indicted for conspiracy and fraud in the federal summer school lunch program.