By Wayne Miller
As if she were something opened --
like a pocket watch -- her body slipped beneath a surface
peeled back to reveal its surface --
drops of air clinging to her thighs
like roe. Outside, the snow pressed down against the city's
rooftops; a frozen shirt on the clothesline hung slack,
no longer cracked and whipped by the wind. And the window
just a slide of silence -- its slip into evening measured
in drips from the tap. I found I was alone with her body --
refracted and clarified -- water breathing with her breath.
What could I do but watch the lightwebs lambently drift
along the walls? -- as if the room's edges radiated
from her, as if I were inside her thought. But then,
even before this could register, the clothesline creaked
and the wind picked up, and she stirred, so the water
broke from her into water.
"'Nude Asleep in the Tub' began when I attended an exhibition -- I believe at the MoMA in 1998 -- of Pierre Bonnard's beautiful paintings of interior domestic scenes, many of which are of his wife bathing," writes Miller in Poet's Choice. "Over the following two years, I attempted several versions of a poem about a woman in a bathtub, all of which failed miserably. I picked up the poem -- or the idea for the poem -- again in 2005, when I'd been living with my girlfriend for a couple years in Kansas City. Now that I had lived with someone for more than a very short while, I discovered I had come to understand more fully what those Bonnard paintings were about: that moment when one's beloved withdraws inward to attend to her interior life, even though you are present in the room...as is often the subject of poetry, it also struck me how briefly such moments last." The poem appears in The Book of Props.
We spent most of the day in and near Front Royal, Virginia, where the National Zoo's Conservation & Research Center is located and where they were having their Autumn Conservation Festival. It was fabulous -- a long session with a zookeeper and a kiwi named Pops, a visit with the young clouded leopards who were chasing each other like kittens, a hike around the crane enclosures and down a steep hill to the bison and Przewalski's horse (the latter of whom had a genetically valuable baby but the colt was too young to be out on display). We had a picnic for lunch under a huge maple whose leaves were just starting to turn.
The facility was only open till 3 p.m., so we drove into Shenandoah National Park and followed the Skyline Drive from the top to Thornton Gap (with a brief dip below to see Marys Rock Tunnel), stopping at several of the overlooks. The weather was gorgeous and the sky was very blue. We saw a couple of deer and many, many stinkbugs, plus butterflies, a woolly bear caterpillar, and several hawks. Then we drove home by way of Buckland Farm Market, where we got corn, cheese, nuts, and various other ingredients so Paul could make a Sukkot dinner, the main course of which was peanut pumpkin soup.
One young clouded leopard jumped over another at the National Zoo's Autumn Conservation Festival.
Kiwi Pops is 38 years old -- one of the oldest kiwis outside New Zealand.
Bison on the hooved mammals trail.
Salamanders caught locally by zoo staff (who planned to release them after the festival) at a conservation exhibit.
The red pandas woke up briefly to chase each other before going back to sleep.
The All-New Genetically Altered Jug Band performed near the food tents.
Trees were beginning to change in glorious shades.
Daniel and Adam sat on a Skyline Drive overlook wall.