Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poem for Tuesday and Passover

By Matthew Dickman

Oh, fire—you burn me! Ed is singing
behind the smoke and coals, his wife near him, the rest of us
below the stars
swimming above Washington state,
burning through themselves, he's like an Appalachian Prince
Henry with his banjo
and whiskey. The court surrounding him and the deer
off in the dark hills like the French, terrified
but in love and hungry.
I'm burning all the time. My pockets full of matches
and lighters, the blue smoke
crawling out like a skinny ghost from between my lips.
My lungs on fire, the wings
of them falling from the open sky. The tops of Michelle's long hands
looked like the beautiful coats
leopards have, covered in dark spots. All the cigarettes she would light
and then smash out, her eyes
the color of hair spray, cloudy and stingy
and gone, but beautiful! She carried her hands around
like two terrible letters of introduction. I never understood
who could have opened them, read them aloud,
and still thrown her onto a bed, still walked into the street she was, still
lit what little fuse she had left. Oh, fire—
you burn me. My sister and I and Southern Comfort
making us singe and spark, the family
ash all around us, the way she is beautiful to me in her singular blaze,
my brain lighting up, my tongue
like a monk in wartime, awash in orange silk and flames.
The first time I ever crushed a handful of codeine into its universe
of powdered pink, the last time
I felt the tangy aspirin drip of ecstasy down my throat,
the car losing control, the sound of momentum, this earth is not standing
still, oh, falling elevator—
you keep me, oh, graveyard—
you have been so patient, ticking away, smoldering—
you grenade. Oh, fire,
the first time I ever took a drink I was doused with gasoline,
that little ember perking up inside me, flashing, beginning to glow and climb.


From this week's New Yorker.

The day before Passover started, we knew we were going to pick up Paul's younger brother Jon in the late afternoon for the seder, so the kids and I had a fairly quiet morning at home -- particularly quiet since older son slept till nearly noon -- before leaving after lunch and going to National Harbor, which we had seen only from the car the day before. We parked in one of the big garages and walked down to the water, stopping at the standing stones that have been put up around the community (which includes hotels, condos, restaurants, and a lot of retail space, much of which is still empty. It's gorgeous, though -- right on the Potomac River, looking out at the reconstructed Wilson Bridge and the Alexandria skyline with the Masonic memorial to George Washington.

We walked down to see the sculpture moved from Hains Point, The Awakening, and discovered that the first Peeps Store in the U.S. had opened on the waterfront, selling chocolate-covered peeps, glass peeps, stuffed peeps, and a "candy bar" with various flavors of Mike & Ike's as well as many colors of traditional marshmallow peeps and bunnies. Then we went to Ben & Jerry's (which was having a three-scoops-for-$3 happy hour special) and ate it while walking to the Gaylord National Hotel, where we went to see the beautiful 18-story glass atrium full of gardens, fountains, and little shops in Alexandria-style houses. Then we found Jon and headed to the seder at my parents' where we were met by Paul and Jon's parents plus friends of the family. I ate an unholy amount -- salad, matzoh balls in veggie soup, non-chicken piccata, carrot souffle, a potato pancake, applesauce, macaroons, chocolate roll -- and everything was delicious, plus we had lots of interesting conversations when we could hear one another over my kids!

The head and hands of The Awakening on the shore of the Potomac River at National Harbor.

Beneath menacing National Harbor eagles, the Peeps Store...

...where Paul was surrounded by total cuteness.

This is the stone circle near the entrance drive to National Harbor. There are also megaliths scattered throughout the buildings in grassy areas.

The Gaylord National Hotel has cherry blossoms blooming outside its enormous greenhouse atrium...

...with an indoor stream flowing through it, winding up in this waterfall...

...which can be switched to erupt in geysers instead.

My family and guests at the seder, after dessert, before the afikoman.

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