By W.D. Snodgrass
The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven't learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.
The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.
The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.
The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I'd ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who's trusted me
I'd be substantial, presently.
I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date. And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.
And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.
I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.
I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body's hunger;
That I have forces true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.
While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is a value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.
Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.
One more from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "There's no agreed-upon Syracuse 'school.' But all [the school's] luminaries -- however different in sensibility and style -- move me without verbal frou frou or puffed up pyrotechnics," writes Mary Karr. Of Pulitzer Prize winner Snodgrass, she adds that he "poked fun at his role in academia: 'I haven't read one book about/A book or memorized one plot./Or found a mind I did not doubt./I learned one date. And then forgot.'" The poem above is from Heart's Needle.
I had a bit of a hectic day. Didn't sleep too well because Paul had an upset stomach and kept getting up, then I woke up early to try to have a bit of time since the kids were getting home from school at lunchtime, but I spent almost all morning organizing photos on my external hard drive -- ridiculous how long it took to put all the gerbil pictures in one place -- and they arrived before I even had my leftover hummus. I took the kids out to Michael's to get various craft supplies for various planned family projects, then stopped at CVS and to get gas, and by the time we got home, it was almost time to go to my parents' for dinner. The food (some kind of chicken with cherry sauce and wild rice, carrot souffle, noodle kugel, German chocolate cake and lots of other stuff) as always was fabulous, and my parents had friends over whom I like, so it was a very nice New Year evening.
Tree of Life by SuSan Esther
We missed the beginning of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and by the end I was still confused about (spoilers) who in heck Allison is and her relationship with Cameron and whether that was "our" Cameron who killed her or a different version of the same model and why she has the memories of the person upon whom she was apparently modeled, not to mention whether Cameron had all her memories back in the end and what caused her to glitch and how come Sarah went from "DON'T TALK TO ME WITHOUT A CODE WORD!" to "oops, I'm going to be in the hospital with a pregnant woman I barely know and not worry about my son in the least" and lots of other things that might not have made sense even if I'd seen the whole episode.
Then we watched Heroes, which I didn't like as much as the premiere, though it was shorter and punchier. Spoilers: I prefer Hiro and Ando as the comic relief to the way they were written last season (super-speed girl calling Hiro "Pikachu" got a laugh out of my entire family, as did Ando saying, "I'm being awesome!"), but they also seem rather frivolous about what Hiro's late father said was the fate of the world -- and really, the more times this show conjures the end of the world, the more difficult it gets to take seriously. And are Tracy/Nikki/Jessica clones, and that's why the split personalities, or are they triplets, or is this the living Jessica retured with amnesia?
And of course we ended the evening with Boston Legal, which had three nicely balanced storylines, none of which was complete crack! Though only BL can get away with playing the near-death of a major character -- in a situation unnervingly like the circumstances under which Heath Ledger apparently died -- for laughs. Spoilers: Shirley's granddaughter comes to visit, leading Shirley immediately to ask what Marlena has done. Turns out she voted in the primary despite being 17, considering it an act of patriotism. When Denny says that she's as hot as Granny and wants to know if she's as nasty, Shirley smacks him...and Denny goes down unconscious, not breathing. Alan gives him CPR, though when Denny wakes, he hopes that it was Shirley's mouth on his. At the hospital, Alan learns that Denny has been taking over 40 prescription medications, and later he agrees to help sue the main pharmaceutical company that convinced him he needed all the drugs without advertising the interactions.
Meanwhile, Carl takes on the case of Shirley's granddaughter, who goes before Judge Brown demanding to know why she can be treated as an adult for the purpose of going to prison yet can't elect leaders. She's sick of voters making choices based on who'd be fun to have a beer with; moreover, she's old enough to become a parent but not to safeguard her abortion rights, which she calls a more important decision. The prosecutor questions her judgment since Marlena made a YouTube video encouraging other children to falsify records and vote. He offers six months probation and community service, which Shirley thinks she should accept, but Carl agrees with Marlena that the girl deserves better for caring about her future and says he'll take the case to court (with Shirley suggesting that Marlena, who believes Grandma was around to fight for women's suffrage, should leave via the window and Carl making surely/Shirley jokes).
Katie and Jerry have the toughest case, a 15-year-old girl raped in a private prison who is suing for damages. Loudmouth lawyer Melvin Palmer is representing the prison and tries to play Deal or No Deal with the girl's father, then is unable to understand why Katie finds him disgusting when he indicates that the tactics are just to prove to the family that they don't want to put the girl through a trial with a lawyer like him. The girl is calm on the stand recounting her rape by a guard who pinned her down by the neck. Melvin asks whether she had flirted with and kissed the guard, then points out that she didn't scream for help, dismissing her testimony that the guard threatened to kill her if she did. Katie is impressed by Jerry's work on the case, particularly when he attacks the prison owner on the stand -- a man whose facility brought in $350 million yet only gave their temporary guards 40 hours of training.
Marlena's prosecutor points out that children aren't allowed to have sex, drink or drive at various ages in the interests of what's best for the country. In turn, Carl scoffs at the idea that children could screw things up more than adults have with the recession, the war, the environmental damage, not to mention the failing educational system and rising costs of social security. Plus teenagers file tax returns, which is taxation without representation, a major cause of the Revolutionary War. With women still alive who were once denied the right to vote and 13% of US black men ineligible due to their criminal records, the country really is ruled by old, white and rich, adds Carl. Impressed with this and with research that coddling teenagers makes them less instead of more responsible, the judge dismisses criminal charges against Marlena, who tells Carl that she can almost see what Grandma finds attractive about him despite his age.
Melvin closes by saying that there was no negligence in the rape -- the guard had no history of assault, the prisoner contributed to her situation by leading him on, and the case shouldn't be a referendum on private prisons and their greed. Katie counters in her closing by pointing out that with millions of Americans in jail, the last thing we need is to turn the incarceration system over to organizations whose profits depend on keeping people behind bars or encouraging repeat offenses, putting money ahead of lives. She draws comparisons with Blackwater. The jury finds for the plaintiff, and Jerry and Katie win over a million dollars for the girl who was raped. Jerry claims that it was Katie's closing that won over the jury, but he's sounding far more confident and is less reliant on props, which he credits to his new therapist...I wonder whether it's going to turn out that he's on a new medicine.
Speaking of...when the pharmaceutical company lawyers threaten to sue Alan for extortion, Alan says, "sit your arrogant ass down," then tells them that last week he took on big tobacco, so he can't be intimidated. In fact, the pharmaceutical company reminds him of a tobacco company -- lobbying Congress, suppressing information, killing customers, advertising to children. In court Alan argues that pharmaceutical companies count on people buying off the internet without seeing a doctor, not knowing potential dangers from interactions because the companies conceal them; they spend more money on advertising than on testing their products, and invents phony chronic conditions so they can sell cures to people like Denny and other senior citizens. The judge agrees that the case should go to trial.
On the balcony, Alan asks Denny if he thinks about dying. Denny is more interested in Alan's assessment of him as a kisser until they turn to talking about what they'd do if they knew this was going to be their last year. Alan wants a go at Shirley, but Denny can't believe that with all the women he's loved, it was Alan whose kiss brought him back to life: "Who ever would believe that Alan Shore would be my Prince Charming?"