By Stuart Dischell
The day that I found art in my first name
Was the same day I saw hell in my last.
There was a girl there, of course, --
Touching a wet finger
To a postage stamp,
Pursing her lips
On the double bed.
I went to kiss
The cat-tongue rough
Of her each bent knee.
I was weak then, not yet a liar.
One of us had said,
What we do is our own business.
Then we broke the windows
And looted the store.
Another from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "For each person, one utterance is so loaded with associations that it cannot be heard objectively: our own name," writes Robert Pinsky, citing Catullus, Villon and Elizabeth Bishop as examples of poets who reflected upon their names. "Stuart Dischell, in his new book, Backwards Days, writes an artful and striking variation on this theme...the way the last two lines revise and challenge the preceding phrase 'our own business' does, indeed, exemplify 'the manner of SD,' with its playful yet implacable stripping away of self-justification," adds Pinsky. "Dischell compresses a lot of narrative -- and much understanding -- into fewer than a hundred words. His poem teases and expands notions of personality and impersonality, the hellish and artful qualities of being a many-sided but particular person called by an identifying name."
I had a lovely Christmas that involved no celebration whatsoever of the holiday. We went to Mount Vernon, which was surprisingly crowded, for which the tour guides blamed, err, credited National Treasure: Book of Secrets (all the while assuring us that there are no secret tunnels on the property mapped by George Washington, his slaves or anyone else). Since Christmas is usually such a low visitor day, the third floor of the house was open to the public, which it has never once been in all the times I've visited; these were Martha Washington's private rooms after her husband's death, since she did not want to sleep in their bedroom where he died. Because it was warm out, the sheep, cows and horses were in the fields and the barns were open.
The tours were informal, with people passing through in a steady line rather than in tour groups, but as always we learned some new things and noticed some new things, and we got to visit the new visitor's center which has several movies including a reenactment of Washington's war years and Glenn Close narrating Martha Washington's private reflections on her husband, plus George Washington's weapons, telescope, drinking glasses, family Bible and dentures. Since it was only $5 more to buy yearly passes rather than just paying admission, we got the passes so we can go back for the colonial fair in the summer and drop in any time we happen to be nearby in Alexandria.
George Washington's formal dining room set for Christmas dinner at Mount Vernon.
Usually no photos are permitted in the house, but there were people on either side of us snapping away with flashbulbs and not getting scolded, so I took a chance and took a couple of photos with the flash off.
The color of the paint is matched to the original and this mantelpiece is the original, a gift from an admirer that Washington liked because it has farm animals and he considered himself a farmer.
The tables in the outer buildings for servants and riders are not as glamorous.
But the views of the river from all around the house are spectacular.
Here for instance is a side view off the back porch.
The grounds had few holiday decorations, but the visitor center had a tree trimmed with George, Martha and Mount Vernon souvenirs.
We had fondue for dinner and pumpkin pie for dessert, both Paul's choice -- since we do not celebrate Christmas at all, I figure he is entitled to eat whatever he wants that day -- and then, thanks to the kindness of strangers, we watched Voyage of the Damned. It wasn't my favorite Tenth Doctor episode -- wasn't even my favorite Tenth Doctor Christmas special, really -- but I loved it anyway. I was afraid it would be too Titanic for my taste, but it was much more Poseidon Adventure in all the best ways!
SPOILERS: I really dislike angels and appreciate that they are always bad news on Doctor Who ("Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like?" -- The Prophecy). So the Heavenly Host tourist information and killing machines make me very happy! I had had it with the Doctor-as-Jesus parallels at the end of last season's series with Martha as His disciple on Earth, but even though he was playing the Reverend Scott role from The Poseidon Adventure -- without the dying-on-a-cross part -- I appreciated that it was toned down despite the theological imagery and his insistence/apparent belief that he could save them all. The fake professor Copper's explanation of Christmas, in which Santa is a god married to Mary and the people of the UK are at war with Turkey so they eat them for Christmas like savages, really made me howl.
I liked Astrid, didn't love her but we didn't really get to know her much, other than the usual starry-eyed-girl routine when meeting the Doctor which gets tiresome enough that I'm really looking forward to Donna biting his head off a bit. (I like the wonder at the universe, it's the worship of the man that goes with it that I can live without.) At least with her backstory -- waitress at a spaceport diner, saw the ships go to the stars and dreamed of doing the same -- her behavior makes sense, more to me than Doctor Jones' anyway. Plus she gave her life saving others without falling insanely in love, she didn't have time for that, she just did it because he'd have done it for her and the rest. I liked the randomness of the deaths, which unlike in Poseidon Adventure did not spare the innocent while killing off the whore, the crook, etc. though it's a bit annoying that the two white guys lived while both women, the alien, the black man died...it's so true that Mr. Financial Asshole is not who I'd have picked!
I loved a lot of little images -- the big guy stuck like Winnie the Pooh trying to escape from the Host, the angels hurling their halos like Xena with a chakram while Astrid batted them away like baseballs, and the Doctor lifted up by angels (younger son started singing the John Farnham song, making me howl some more). And I did find the scene where he tries desperately to bring Astrid back, only to have to be convinced that she's really gone, quite moving, like the cumulative effect of losing people is getting worse and worse for the Doctor. I still wish there was more of Astrid there, but given how little time they had and how amazing the ship itself was in the glimpses we got, the party, the explosions, the engines, I think they did quite a good job.
I'm so sad about the tiger attack in San Francisco! What a holiday bummer. Wednesday I have boys home and no van for half the day, as the other one was making scary noises and is now at the shop. Eee!