Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Poem for Wednesday

Alternate Take: Levon Helm
By Tracy K. Smith

I've been beating my head all day long on the same six lines,
Snapped off and whittled to nothing like the nub of a pencil
Chewed up and smoothed over, yellow paint flecking my teeth.

And this whole time a hot wind's been swatting down my door,
Spat from his mouth and landing smack against my ear.
All day pounding the devil out of six lines and coming up dry

While he drives donuts through my mind's back woods with that
Dirt-road voice of his, kicking up gravel like a runaway Buick.
He asks Should I come in with that back beat, and whatever those

Six lines were bothered by skitters off like water in hot grease.
Come in with your lips stretched tight and that pig-eyed grin,
Bass mallet socking it to the drum. Lay it down like you know

You know how, shoulders hiked nice and high, chin tipped back,
So the song has to climb its way out like a man from a mine.


From this week's New Yorker.

My plan for Tuesday was to read The Lost Symbol, but UPS didn't get here till nearly 4 p.m. By then I knew there was no way I'd get the book read in a single day -- the kids were home and discussing homework, the dog and the shofar and the MIT Rickroll stunt, and I had started doing laundries and cleaning the kitchen after I put stuff away upstairs, so I had to finish those chores. With the interruptions, and given that I stopped reading around 8:30, I got to page 160 and I'm really loving Dan Brown's treatment of my hometown, Washington, D.C., in terms of the architecture and symbolism, just the way he did with Rome and Paris in previous books (in some cases also just as hyperbolic, but that's part of the fun). I'm also highly entertained by the fact that the Redskins are playing -- and winning! -- as a recurrent theme throughout the first half of the book, which takes place over the course of about three hours plus flashbacks.

This is not the Washington Monument that Robert Langdon sees while flying into DC in The Lost Symbol.

It's the one built by the people of Boonsboro in honor of our first president...well, the third incarnation of same, after it was used as a Civil War lookout and damaged over time.

These days there are nearly always bird-watchers counting the eagles, hawks, and vultures like this one circling overhead or migrating through the region.

Last weekend a Confederate interpreter discussed the monument and the Battle of South Mountain.

The museum has nearly always been closed when we've visited before, but it was open this weekend for the anniversary of the battle, where we got to see artifacts... well as this Union soldier's uniform...

...and these Southern soldier's clothes.

When we arrived, the dew had not yet disappeared on the plants along the Appalachian Trail, which passes right through the park.

Since I had stopped reading, I figured I might as well watch Warehouse 13, though I was afraid it would be boring after The Lost Symbol. But after last week's warehouse-intensive story, I was pleased that this week's was largely a character story with gratuitous Edgar Allen Poe connections, and although I think the plot gave poor Poe the Dan Brown treatment, it was very enjoyable to see Saul Tigh as Myka's father. (A bit Harry Potter, too -- Dad has Tom Riddle's diary, which is a horcrux, and there's stained glass and a pendulum and a quill.) Meanwhile I made sure my penguin was ready to celebrate Mexican Independence Day on his beach -- have a terrific day if you are celebrating, too!

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