A few Christmases ago, I heard Johnny Cash’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy” for the first time—and heard words in the song I never had before. That gravelly voice brought a certain realistic cadence to the carol, the cadence of a human soul before the Son of God, lying as he is in a container that holds food for cows and donkeys. And it’s also, I realized, the cadence of a musician, an artist, giving what he has. (The video of Cash singing the carol is well worth watching.)
Underneath my mother-in-law’s table sits a bucket with a lid. In it, fish sauce—made from four ingredients: fish, salt, water, time—rots its way beyond rot to the salty-savory goodness. It’s fermenting, condensing into a flavor so intense that it will almost level you, like strong drink.
My brother-in-law died on Thanksgiving. His death took him away from a suffering that began, in truth, the day his wife died suddenly nine years ago. His wife’s death did not mark a tragic beginning. It was a bookend holding up decades pressed against the day his father drowned trying to save his life in the Spring River.
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
So there we are. It’s Black Friday and we’re stuffed like the turkey we ate a day ago. Bev is decorating for Christmas and I should be enjoying a day spent writing. But I’m anxious instead. My rough draft is late and the animals of my ideas scurry and hide like scared, hungry strays let in from the cold.
“God will find the pattern and break it.”
– From John Ashbery’s “Anticipated Stranger,”
In the TV show The Last Man On Earth, the plot develops to where three people are left in the world; and Phil, who reluctantly agreed to marry Carol since she was the last woman on Earth, now wants to be with Melissa, the second to last woman on Earth. It was too easy for Phil to persuade Carol and Melissa that he needed to have sex with both of them to repopulate the world. The question Phil slyly asks and Carol takes up as her own rallying cry is: “Do you want our babies to have sex with each other?”