By Carl Phillips
by trees at its far ending,
as is the way in moral tales:
whether trees as trees actually,
for their shadow and what
inside of it
hides, threatens, calls to;
or as ever-wavering conscience,
cloaked now, and called Chorus;
or, between these, whatever
falls upon the rippling and measurable,
but none to measure it, thin
fabric of this stands for.
A kind of meadow, and then
trees-many, assembled, a wood
therefore. Through the wood
path, emblematic of Much
Trespass: Halt. Who goes there?
A kind of meadow, where it ends
begin trees, from whose twinning
of late light and the already underway
darkness you were expecting perhaps
the stag to step forward, to make
of its twelve-pointed antlers
the branching foreground to a backdrop
or you wanted the usual
bird to break cover at that angle
at which wings catch entirely
what light's left,
so that for once the bird isn't miracle
at all, but the simplicity of patience
and a good hand assembling: first
the thin bones, now in careful
rows the feathers, like fretwork,
now the brush, for the laying-on
of sheen.... As is always the way,
you tell yourself, in
until you have gone there,
and gone there, "into the
field," vowing Only until
there's nothing more
I want-thinking it, wrongly,
a thing attainable, any real end
to wanting, and that it is close, and that
it is likely, how will you not
this time catch hold of it: flashing,
flesh at once
lit and lightless, a way
out, the one dappled way, back
I had a surprisingly pleasant morning at a sad occasion: the unveiling of the gravestone for Uncle Paul, my father's father's brother, who died last year at age 90. All my local cousins came to the cemetery as well as my parents and kids, and since I don't get to see most of them very often -- and many of them can't come to the Bar Mitzvah due to various other obligations -- it was nice to get to visit with them and have lunch with them afterward (deli, terrific cupcakes, drinks mixed by my social-worker-turned-bartender Cousin Debbie). Uncle Paul's daughter Stephanie mentioned that it was the perfect weekend for the unveiling since it was the anniversary of D-Day and World War II was one of the events that most shaped his life.
My Uncle Paul's gravestone was more complicated to acquire than my cousins expected because, to get the military engravings, they had to track down his discharge papers and authentication of his bronze star. Besides his family, he was very proud of his religion and his service record, both of which are noted on the stone.
My uncle during the war, in a photo published in 1943.
Uncle Paul and Aunt Shirley at their 60th anniversary celebration, which was also the family Chanukah party that year.
The cover of Uncle Paul's memoir, From the Streets of Brooklyn to the War in Europe.
The baby is my Uncle Paul. The older boy is my Grandpa Herman. The adults are my father's grandparents, Rose and Benjamin Greenblatt.
We went to get our pre-Bar Mitzvah haircuts in the afternoon, then let Adam go to the pool with friends for a while while Daniel did homework and I folded laundry. Daniel actually wanted to watch the Tony Awards this year, having seen West Side Story with his school choir trip to New York, so for a change the kids did not hide in the basement playing video games. I didn't see a thing this year -- hadn't even heard the full scores of any of the musicals -- so I didn't have a lot invested in who won, which made me surprised when I really enjoyed the show.
Things I loved: the producers getting the crowd to its feet early with "Let the Sunshine In" (I'd thought West Side Story was favored to win Best Revival but by the time Hair won, I was thrilled for them). Angela Lansbury looking absolutely terrific in her mid-80s and winning a fifth Tony. The God of Carnage producer calling his cast "the acting equivalent of Roger Federer" (I didn't see the French Open but I'm happy for him). Geoffrey Rush winning, and announcing, "French existential absurdist tragicomedy rocks," and then pretending David Mamet et al are French. Frank Langella mocking his lack of nomination by pretending to find his Oscar acceptance speech in his pocket. Marcia Gay Harden winning. Kristen Chenoweth presenting. The closing, to "Tonight," which they must have written as the show went on (best line: "Chris Siebert, please!/Performing on your knees?/That only works to win Golden Globes").
In general, I was sorry it wasn't as gay as previous years despite Harvey Fierstein, and despite, as Neil Patrick Harris noted, the omnipresence of Liza Minnelli and Elton John, not to mention himself. How did I not know that William Gibson had died until the memorial montage?! But if the evening had a moral, it seemed to be either to be a child star or the child of someone famous -- a Minnelli, an Arnaz, a Burton, a Foote. I'll keep that in mind in my next life...