Thursday, February 07, 2008

Poem for Thursday

Thermopylae
By Constantine Cavafy
Translated by John Ioannidis


Honor to those who in their lives
have defined and guard their Thermopylae.
Never stirring from duty;
just and upright in all their deeds,
yet with pity and compassion too;
generous when they are rich, and when
they are poor, again a little generous,
again helping as much as they can;
always speaking the truth,
yet without hatred for those who lie.

And more honor is due to them
when they foresee (and many do foresee)
that Ephialtes will finally appear,
and that the Medes in the end will go through.

--------

Still coughing, have really had quite enough of it, but at least my sinuses were relatively clear most of the day and the weather was beyond belief here -- 70 degrees and, though we got a bit of afternoon drizzle, mostly calm. Hope everyone in the South is okay -- those tornadoes looked terrifying on the news. I went looking for news that wasn't weather or Super Tuesday, but kept running into Britney's release and Heath's overdose, and then I decided I'd rather watch the 1996 Trevor Nunn film of Twelfth Night shot in Cornwall with Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Kingsley and Nigel Hawthorne among others (as Shakespearean cross-dressing heroines go, I like Viola much better than Rosalind in As You Like It, I must confess).

I had a nice thing happen. At some point when I was looking for paintings of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, I came across this one, which is sold as an image on greeting cards at the Chalice Well gift shop, but the Chalice Well's online and mail-order shop has been closed at least since we were there in spring of 2007 (I don't remember seeing the cards there or I'd have bought them). So I wrote to the artist, Georgia Lambert, asking whether the image was available anywhere else, and after a bit of correspondence about her art and the Chalice Well, she sent me a print of it. It's on my bedroom wall now above Kris Waldherr's Isis.


An emerald tree boa in the National Zoo Reptile House. It uses infrared "vision" -- heat sensors -- to track down prey.


A baby green tree python, born in September -- this one is nearly black and has a sibling who is yellow. They turn green as they get older.


A timber rattlesnake showing off its rattle, which likely evolved to warn bigger animals to keep their distance.


I'm not certain what kind of snake this is, since it's shedding its skin.


A yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle. People eat their meat and eggs, so even though they can live 70 years, they are endangered.


A green-crested basilisk.


And from the National Museum of Natural History, the skeleton of a viper.


My Uncle Paul has died, my father's uncle, the last of my relatives from his generation. A World War II veteran, journalist, married for over 50 years, father of two and grandfather of four, Yiddish speaker, author of this memoir. He had Alzheimer's -- it sounds like the end was peaceful and quick, though not quick enough, since he was already forgetting the people closest to him. We went on vacations to the beach with his family when I was young and, since his family lived only a few minutes from my parents when I was growing up, we were closer than a lot of grandparents are to their grandchildren. The last time I saw him, I think he thought I was my grandmother -- my father's mother rather than his daughter -- though he knew I had known my grandfather, his brother. He will be missed by the entire family.

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