By Fleda Brown
Night after night the photos of dead soldiers
go by on the News Hour like playing-cards while we drink
our wine, though we stop for that length of time, of course,
out of reverence, but it's not enough. The well of
how-not-enough-it-is is bottomless, deeper than TV. Even
if you track back through the Comcast cable, back to
the electrical impulses, you're not even close to what to do.
Not even if you end up on Main Street in Salisaw, Oklahoma,
and follow the 19-year-old into the storefront full of
uniforms, crisp, medallioned, follow not his vanity
but his hope, his longing for order, for the squared shoulders
of order, his wish for the vast plains of the world
to unroll at eye-level, so he can walk out into the particulars,
the screaming, the blood. Owen, Brooke, Sassoon: what
anthem for the doomed youth this time? His death rests
like a quarter in the pocket, a sure thing. Its arrival
is a few missing lines I fill in, wrongly, because
the mind does that: I have him watching in slow motion,
with love and pity, the flowers beginning to bloom
on his shirt, the sky closing like a book. Sadly, then,
he disappears entirely into my mind, his last breath
easing between my words. There was a book in his childhood.
No, mine. Ducks cross the road, a mother duck leads them
through traffic to the pond. The pages flip so that
the ducks seem to move. They slide into the pond
with the satisfaction of making it through the human
confusion. Our soldier floats like a duck. Like a night-flight
casket. In the photo his eyes, straight-forward, being all
they can be, float on the surface of a pool of uncatalogued
genetic material. One snapshot in time, his eyes were
like that, his mouth. He can't remember. He never was
like that. He was playing dress-up, then, hoping to make it true,
and did, so true no one could get in a word, in protest.
"I was just weary. Those mostly-baby faces day after day, nearly young enough to be my oldest grandchild. But after the great World War I poets, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brook, how could I write this again? What new words are there?" asks Brown in Poet's Choice. "I was angry, of course. So I had this one small-town guy, someone I made up out of all the others. I have him heading into the recruiting office. What does he want? It's so vague." Brown's Reunion won the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry.
We had yet another glorious spring day in the DC area, low 70s, sunny and calm, so while Daniel was at robotics, we took Adam out for what was supposed to be a hike on the Virginia side of Great Falls, except that traffic backed up all the way down Georgetown Pike, so we figured we'd try the Maryland side, except that there was a big PARKING LOT FULL sign at the Falls Road-MacArthur Boulevard intersection, at which point we decided that since we needed to pick Daniel up on the other side of the county anyway, we might as well go to Wheaton Regional Park and Brookside Gardens to see flowers and hopefully find less mud than we'd been warned to expect by the Potomac River. It turned out to be the perfect place to spend the afternoon -- we saw lots of animals, including turtles, frogs, geese, ducks, fish, snails, assorted songbirds, and a few bugs, plus the flowers that are already blooming in the park:
After stops at two different Trader Joe's to look for hummus, Paul made penne with zucchini and ricotta for dinner, then we watched Miyazaki's Porco Rosso, which we got at a bargain rate because we ordered it from Disney along with The Princess and the Frog. It's a lot of fun, though I think his female characters are more interesting in later films; it's about a World War I flying ace, so of course I was thinking Snoopy, particularly since the pilot flies a red plane and is an animal who's smarter than the people around him. (Maybe Snoopy is a human under a curse?) I thought it was headed for a Beauty and the Beast ending and was delighted that it was more complicated than that. We missed the Kansas game, though I can't say I'm particularly sorry that they're out of Maryland's quarter of the tournament, though I am sorry that Villanova lost!