Sunday afternoons, she rolled off her stockings to cross beams girding my grandfather’s barn. She was fifteen and longed for something in the dark leafy boughs she couldn’t quite reach. Balancing on a hand-hewn rafter was nothing more than stepping out on a limb and the humid hour held its breath, the twittering sparrows fell silent. Dust shivered suspended as she passed through shafts of light austere as a coronation. This was before she coiled her braids under a covering and took her place in a kitchen with its slick checkered floor and the tick of a clock she had to rewind. For one immortal summer, girders hung taut as strings her steady feet could strum.
Are these Christian tattooists in the paper any stranger—Simon Stylites spent a life standing on a stone pillar, sixty feet up— did not come down for cramps or winter rain.
Could I survive the Sacred Heart with “Hail, Mary, Full of Grace” across my arm, or the crucifixion in three colors against my sternum between my breasts. Needles to skin over soft tissue is less painful, but flesh is grass and sags— art lasts best close to bone.
No stranger than hair shirts, hundreds of needles for hours, for days, even years, to get the complete St. Michael on my shoulder to the writhing, twisting dragon down my leg. Or my whole life to get the Last Supper with Stations of the Cross, and the proper text— Jesus’ words in red— covering every inch of skin, eyelids, lips, nose, between fingers and toes, while invisible capillaries under the skin carry the images molecule by molecule into the living catacombs of bone.
The name Roman Polanski conjures up different responses. To many film buffs he is the Polish wunderkind who rocketed out of the Lodz film school in Poland to direct the dark and mysterious Knife in the Water (1962), a tale of fear and betrayal on the high seas heralded for its thematic complexity and perfect camera placement.
A friend of theirs had been festering like an old sandwich, rotting a little before disposal. They had to come, but it got to where they held their breath before they stepped inside the room. The wife remembered how anything with mayonnaise had to be refrigerated.
Even a sack lunch in an office was suspect if stored under the desk for a morning: egg salad was the worst. The husband recalled a tiny door in the stone wall of an English church, stage right from the modest altar—a place for lepers to take communion. Only part
of a soul could pass, and precious little of the smell. The wife and husband talked with their old friend like this, backing off from his suppurations, unwilling to think, This is our body, unwilling to think, Dust to dust, slipping their elements of decay into the outer cold and darkness.
So you doubt the whereabouts of God, a quark, everywhere yet nowhere at once. So the hell what? Doubt you the wind, doubt sandstone erosion and trilobite carapace. Let faith in dawn weather slow as feldspar. The sperm whale’s lungs collapse a thousandfold in unfathomable depths, yet bear it, unyielding. You who preach against miracles, go doubt the arctic tern asleep on the wing. Doubt that a father will leave untouched constellations of frost inside his windshield, the breath of his child frozen overnight. Doubt that bodies lose a few grams the moment of death. Doubt that, you who will, doubt that.
Americans now donate five times as many clothes to charity than they did in 1980. The supply of donated clothing outstrips the demand: typically, only 20 percent of donated clothing is sold where it is donated. In 2014, 11 percent of clothing donated to Goodwill ended up in landfills. About 45 percent of all donated clothing is exported to foreign countries by for-profit companies. The glut of used clothing disrupts local economies in developing countries, putting textile workers out of jobs. Bre Cruickshank recommends that clothing donors invest “in timeless styles of better quality,” rather than “refreshing our wardrobe according to seasonal trends” (Not Just a Label, April 9).