Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

November 15, 2020
by jenniferpuryear

Sunday Morning: 3 Poems

I hope you’ll find beauty and solace in these wildly different poems, as I have. They are each, in their way, about patience.

But first, a tiny joke! My sweet friend sends me one each day as I’m living the sofa life.

The past, present, and future walk into a bar…

It was tense.


Patience Taught by Nature
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.

(Photo courtesy/copyright Jack Barnwell)

How to Give Thanks for a Broken Leg
by Barbara Kingsolver

Thank your stars that at least your bones
know how to knit, two sticks at work:
tibia, fibula, ribbed scarf as long as a winter.
The mindless tasks a body learns when it must.

Praise your claw-foot tub. Tie a sheet around its belly
like a saddle on a pig, to hammock your dry-docked
limb while the rest of you steeps. Sunk deep
in hot water up to your chin, dream of the troubles
you had, when trouble was still yours to make.
The doctor says eight weeks. Spend seven here.

Be glad for your cast that draws children with
permanent markers, like vandals and their graffiti
to the blighted parts of town. They mark out
their loves and territories, and you, the benevolent
mayor, will wear these concerns in public,
then throw them away when your term is up.

Concede your debt to life’s grammar, even as
it nailed you in one fell stroke from subject to object.
Praise the helping verbs, family hands that feed;
the surgical modifiers that pin you from shattered
to fixed to mended. Praise the careless syntax
of a life where, through steady misuse, a noun
grows feet: it turtles and outfoxes and one day,
with no one watching, steps out as a brand-new verb.

Osprey at Lake Tillery (photo courtesy/copyright Jack Barnwell)

Psalm 130, King James Version

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Double crested cormorants arrive at Lake Tillery (Photo courtesy/copyright Jack Barnwell)

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Barbara Kingsolver’s poem is from her wonderful new collection –

November 13, 2020
by jenniferpuryear

Friday Night Special: Miracle of Miracles!

NEWSFLASH: The documentary “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” airs tonight on PBS at 8 pm central!

From the New York Times:

“A fascinating love letter to “Fiddler on the Roof” asks: What makes the quintessentially Jewish musical speak to everyone?

Before “Fiddler on the Roof” became a Broadway classic and cultural touchstone, it was just a pretty bad idea. Who wants to see a musical about a Russian milkman marrying off his daughters before a pogrom?

One of the many virtues of the celebratory documentary “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is how it transports you to this early, nerve-racking gestation period. You hear a recording of the composer Jerry Bock telling the lyricist Sheldon Harnick about a new song he wrote, introducing it, as “ersatz Hasidic” and “bubbly and spirited and kind of kooky.” After a bashful chuckle, he plays the now-famous opening notes of “If I Were a Rich Man.” Juxtaposing this insecure-sounding pitch with the dizzying array of versions of this song presented all over the world is breathtaking.

Max Lewkowicz’s documentary keeps reminding us of the multiple sources of inspiration for this quintessentially Jewish musical, from the paintings of Marc Chagall to the politics of the day. In early rehearsals, to help his cast understand what being Jewish in turn-of-the-century Russia was like, the director and choreographer Jerome Robbins had them re-enact scenarios that black people endured in the Jim Crow South. Robbins emerges as the most riveting figure, a cruel and demanding perfectionist, who, in the words of one commenter, “bludgeoned” the show into shape.

Lewkowicz recruits a terrific cast of talking heads that include famous fans (Stephen Sondheim, Lin Manuel Miranda) and artists who have worked on the show, like its producer, Hal Prince, who died in July.

“Fiddler” is at once timeless and a product of its time, but the extent to which it departed from its original source material, the Yiddish stories of Sholem Aleichem, goes mostly unexamined. The same goes for any serious grappling with criticism of the show or its film adaptation, but I never minded. Some shows deserve reverential treatment. And the love letter is, to use a word so associated with this show it influences the way many say it, tradition.”

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This documentary is also available for streaming on AmazonPrime.