Copyright (c) 1995 First Things 56 (October 1995):.

Living Under Authority

Chinese astronomers Hi and Ho were put to death for failing to foretell the solar eclipse of 2169 B.C. I myself was taken by surprise in 1979. A sifting of light pulled me away

from my baby's morning nap and onto the edge of the porch. A line in the west, the leading edge of shadow dividing light and darkness, swept toward me, then over me. I was in darkness. Silent stars

stepped forward. The hubbub of birds fell silent for a moment of minutes. Then from the west, again, fast-forward dawn, a broom held by hands in a heaven, shaking birds from branches and brushing out those stars.

This morning fifteen years later, my children ready for the school bus tell me an almost total eclipse is coming. (Oh, Hi and Ho, had you not children in school?) They go. I turn on the television, expecting

news to break into programming, but it does not. So, I go outside. While I wait, I weed. A patch of sky west of the sun turns from white to cornflower. For an hour

morning is a 40 watt bulb. Birds hop slower, but keep peeping. For some seconds the air chills. Then it warms. A rooster somewhere crows, "Only this? Only this?"

I was ready to glimpse hidden stars, to feel light and darkness clearly defined. I was prepared today to be startled. I rise from something less than I'd planned on. Nevertheless, I'm not killed

for being surprised.

Suzanne Lawrence


All day he's tasted it.
Last night too.
His eyes burning,
like the city where
smoke still chars the sky.

History will not record
exactly how it was.
Some perhaps will grasp
wisps of the story.

He knows his part.
She looked back.
He yearned to.
You cannot live so long together
and not lean into the other,
longing having grown
like twin trees

Not all smoke-nor tears-
but glintings and illuminations
and laughter as well

He offered his daughters.
Brassy offenders, these men
would not take common desserts.
Like most, they desired to rise-
the closest to truth they'd come.

But, how different was the heart
that offered his daughters?
Not all desires acted-
the numinous everywhere.

Having to face deserts again,
he turns from his wife-
a salt lick for cattle,
his head a brazier.

Thomas Ramey Watson

The Fall of Art

First there was magic,
pure bulls
walking the walls of Lascaux,
bull leapers in Knossus.

Then worship, altars
raised to heaven,
to earth;
Aphrodite sailing
her shell-white body,
Christ ascending
on his cruciplane.

And then perfection
worshipped as magic:
Phidias caressing marble thighs,
Michelangelo creating
David's consummate curve.

Now we bow before
subway canvasses
posed on pompous walls;
the id-beast loosed,
numbering the earth.

B. R. Strahan