Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poem for Sunday

Watermelon in the Afternoon
By John Gallaher

Several grandmothers are in a half-circle
eating watermelon from plastic cups.

Let us not forget to act differently.
Let us not forget
to start the music, to play the music loud.

And stir the chairs as they empty.
And close the rooms.

Call the families, then. The several families
down the hall.

Go tell the skinny girls.

The trees are up against the windows.
The wind is up against the trees. And everyone lies down
where they fall.

And this other part, where we think only
watermelon, only
flaring color.

Who knows you should have had
more sense?

Who knows there is more sense?


"We travel from our small town near Kansas City to Austin, Texas, two or so times a year to see family, stopping in Dallas to see my wife's grandmother, who is in her 90s," writes Gallaher in Poet's Choice. "Our children, now 7 and 3, aren't much for sitting and talking, so every visit I find myself following them up and down the halls and little courtyard of the assisted-living community in which she lives. I'm in the habit of keeping a small 3x5 notebook with me, and while we were walking on one recent visit, I wrote down the opening sentence of what became this poem...I had never written a poem opening with the image of grandmothers before, and I wasn't sure how the tone was going to work. In fact, I can't think of another poem of mine that even has the word 'grandmother' in it...I have several with watermelons in them."

After volunteering at Hebrew school, Adam was invited by a friend to Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary to help take care of the animals and take part in a vegan Thanksgiving feast, so we took Daniel to Little Bennett Park to see if we could find the Mound Builders Trail, which we missed last time we were there because we parked in the wrong parking lot. This time we found the correct lot, but we had a different problem: the trail we had planned to hike to reach the Mound Builders Trail went through Beaver Valley, and the beavers have dammed up the stream and flooded it! So we took a slightly longer route, which ended up being delightful since we went past a property that once housed a mill and still hides the ruins of a farm in the woods, following the creek to the enormous nests that the Allegheny Mound Builder ants have constructed. Then we circled the long way around back to the car. It was a cool but not cold day -- overcast, so it never got as warm as forecast -- and there were still plenty of insects singing even though it's late November.

This is the start of the Beaver Valley Trail coming from the parking lot nearest the Mound Builders Trail...

...but it's more obvious from the other side of this brief connecting trail why the valley cannot be traversed at present without knee-high boots.

The trail through the woods to the giant anthills passes the foundations of buildings long vanished...

...and farm equipment left to rust.

A mill once stood on this property as well, surrounded by white oaks.

The creek is very pretty where it hasn't jumped its banks to create a wetlands.

Here are a couple of the many hills built by the region's enormous colonies of ants...

...and here are a couple of the Mound Builders hard at work.

Here is my belated review of "I, Borg" which I appreciate all the more after seeing more recent Star Trek. In the evening we watched what I believe is the last two-part Sarah Jane Adventures episode of the series, "The Gift" (I haven't heard whether it's been picked up for a fourth season, does anyone know yet?). I think the wedding two-parter was the biggest of this series, and I'm surprised they didn't save it for the end, but I can't say that I'm sorry, because I really think Sarah Jane stands on her own without the Doctor and proved it to myself by watching the often-bad and purely delightful K-9 and Company which I obtained from a generous soul who did a transfer from videotape of the episode made when it was broadcast as a Christmas special. The fact that I'm saying I loved it despite the atrocious witchcraft storyline, which makes Eastwick look downright progressive where Wicca is concerned, ought to tell you how much I love Sarah Jane Smith.

I feel the same way about the kids and the child-friendly audience on SJA, really -- sometimes annoying but very easy to tolerate as long as they give Sarah Jane something to do. I know the Slitheen first appeared on Doctor Who, but any alien whose calling card is a loud fart was made for a show watched primarily by people with teenage mindsets, as are most of Clyde's jokes (he's much more clever than Sarah Jane about coming up with uses for K-9, from summoning a bloodhound to taking him to school for help with a test). I mean, really, though -- it's an episode about the potential destruction of Earth and the deaths of every character we care about, a theme done to death with the Doctor, but when there are farting aliens around, somehow it makes it all seem more domestic somehow, not the Grand Epic Horror of Time and Space. Even the villains are a cute couple!

Spoilers: Okay, so the Slitheen, excuse me, Blathereen show up with a gift for the people of Earth, a plant to end hunger, and we're all going, "Killing everyone would solve the food shortage!" and of course that's what the Blathereen have in mind. Mr. Smith proves to be an idiot, just as K-9 accuses, and Luke gets hurt, though not permanently -- I was a bit surprised that the writers blew up the cute villains, even if it was just for the line about them farting themselves to death, but I would have been utterly shocked had anything really bad happened to any of the kids. Really, it's the same story as Torchwood's "Children of Earth," only worse because in principle everyone is going to die -- horrible aliens with an incurable addiction show up to take advantage of humans, ruin Earth -- only clever thinking by a pair of kids (go Rani!) and dedication to preserving a family saves everybody. It is, in fact, the anti-Torchwood, and I love it so much more for that.

As for K-9 and Company, Elisabeth Sladen is gorgeous and gets to wear one fabulous outfit after another, even if there's no reasonable explanation for why she changes so often (let alone why she goes out at night, drives during the day, and arrives at night at her destination which is less than an hour away). And without kids and Mr. Smith around to make K-9 fit right in, the mechanical dog does seem a bit silly. But ask me if I care -- it's quite fun and I'd like to think I'd have watched this show if there had been more of it no matter how ridiculous the pilot might have been, but it's hard to say, because we were spoiled for so many years with so many wonderful female characters on genre TV at once (Buffy, Xena, Nikita, Scully, Janeway all overlapping) before the present dearth.

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