Friday, April 30, 2010

Poem for Friday and Local Lambs

By John Kinsella

Goat gone feral comes in where the fence is open
comes in and makes hay and nips the tree seedlings
and climbs the granite and bleats, through its line-
through-the-bubble-of-a-spirit-level eyes it tracks
our progress and bleats again. Its Boer heritage
is scripted in its brown head, floppy basset-hound ears,
and wind-tunnelled horns, curved back for swiftness.
Boer goats merged prosaically into the feral population
to increase carcass quality. To make wild meat. Purity
cult of culling made vastly more profitable. It's a narrative.
Goat has one hoof missing—just a stump where it kicks
and scratches its chin, back left leg hobbling, counter-
balanced on rocks. Clots of hair hang like extra legs
off its flanks. It is beast to those who'd make devil
out of it, conjure it as Pan in the frolicking growth
of the rural, an easer of their psyches when drink
and blood flow in their mouths. To us, it is Goat
who deserves to live and its "wanton destruction"
the ranger cites as reason for shooting on sight
looks laughable as new houses go up, as dozers
push through the bush, as goats in their pens
bred for fibre and milk and meat nibble forage
down to the roots. Goat can live and we don't know
its whereabouts. It can live outside nationalist tropes.
Its hobble is powerful as it mounts the outcrop
and peers down the hill. Pathetic not to know
that it thinks as hard as we do, that it can loathe
and empathize. Goat tells me so. I am being literal.
It speaks to me and I am learning to hear it speak.
It knows where to find water when there's no water
to be found—it has learned to read the land
in its own lifetime and will breed and pass its learning
on and on if it can. Goat comes down and watches
us over its shoulder, shits on the wall of the rainwater
tank—our lifeline—and hobbles off
to where it prays, where it makes art.


Another from this week's New Yorker.

I had a nice Thursday -- I got to have lunch with Hufflepants, who is back in my area for a few days, and wander in the mall with her before coming back to my house so I could pimp her into the joys of the Eleventh Doctor since she's been deprived of BBC America. My major purchase for the day was a flash drive at Hot Topic for Adam (which he needed anyway), shaped like a penguin. He was quite pleased with this, though he was also pretty distracted because he had found a caterpillar on the way home from school and was trying to film it on his new camera, plus my mother was coming to pick him up and take him shopping for a suit to wear to my niece's Bat Mitzvah in a couple of weeks since he has completely outgrown the suit he wore to his Bar Mitzvah last year.

In other news, my basement TV/VCR not only died but destroyed my Madonna videotape in the process, wah. I read the news, which is really too depressing to talk about (Gulf of Mexico oil nightmare, Arizona bigots, Alabama bigots, British scandal over "bigot"). In the evening I watched both parts of Next Gen's "Birthright" so I can review it tomorrow, plus FlashForward, which had lots of Janis and Olivia and that's really all I demand from an episode -- spoilers -- plus the fact that Annabeth Gish recruited Janis makes me happy, though I really, really wish Janis had not been for sale in the first place; I don't think she's going to be a villain in the end and I like that she's complicated, that she's not "the lesbian" or "the pregnant woman" or any of the stereotypes she could be slotted into, but I really would like to see her do something heroic, since Mark and Demetri are being set up as the major heroes of the series. I had other things to say, but Firefox just crashed so I am just going to stop and hit save before I lose anything else! Here, have some photos of sheep and lambs who live on the farm behind Lake Whetstone:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poem for Thursday and Neighborhood Geese

By Fleda Brown

Who knows
if the goose goes
along its trajectory
for the reasons we suppose?
Such faith we have
in the genes,
so little thought for thought,
however wrought,
in creatures unlike us.
So little confidence in art
that teases apart
the sense we’ve made of things
and leaves us with nothing
smart to say,
and no way gracefully
to get away.


It was a pretty unexciting Wednesday around here that involved mostly chores, though I did have two points of entertainment. My mother came over to make my kids try on the suits they wore to Adam's Bar Mitzvah last year to see whether they'll fit for my niece's Bat Mitzvah next month, to which the boys reacted as though she'd come over to pull their teeth (Daniel's suit will fit, Adam's isn't even close, meaning he has to be dragged shopping tomorrow). Before that, I went to the post office to send off some packages, and on the way home I stopped at the pond in the housing development next to mine where in past years geese have raised families, and I was not disappointed:

We're still (re)watching the Tennant-Stewart Hamlet, so I am distracted -- well, the play has finished (I thought it was excellent the first time and my opinion hasn't changed; I really like this Gertrude and this Ophelia, though the stronger Ophelia is early on in any production, the harder it is to swallow how completely she comes apart later on). This Hamlet seems much more upset about his father's death than his mother's remarriage, which hasn't been the case in most Hamlets I've seen, where the father has generally been a grand and intimidating figure but I got little sense of connection to his son. Now we're watching the behind-the-scenes special that I didn't see before, with Tennant talking about how he hoped he got the intimacy right for the camera as opposed to on stage and Stewart saying that Tennant gets the private moments of the soliloquies just right.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poem for Wednesday and McCrillis Azaleas

Chindallae-kkot (Azaleas)
By Kim So-Wol
Translated by An Sonjae

When you go away at last,
sickened with the sight of me,
know that I shall let you go,
saying nothing, make no fuss;

but climbing high on Yongpyon's hills,
there I'll pick azalea flowers,
armfuls of purple, just to spread
along the pathways as you go.

Then go, with muffled parting steps
trampling down those flowers you find
strewn before your departing feet;

and when you go away at last,
sickened with the sight of me,
know that for the life of me
I'll not shed tears then, no, not one.


There are many other translations of this poem here. There don't appear to be any recently published translations of Kim So-Wol, but there is an older one at

I got to have lunch with Gblvr, so it was a good Tuesday! And she brought me a present -- a silver hamsa from Israel, which is absolutely gorgeous. We met at the Corner Bakery, before which I walked around Washingtonian Lake where there were lots of geese and ducks and a green heron, plus still-blooming white azaleas. After we ate, we went to Bath & Body Works and Target, where I bought a Liberty of London pink umbrella to replace the big umbrella that got killed the last time my family was out in the rain. I wish they had the patterns I like in dress sizes I could wear but I'd have to cut eighteen inches above the lower hems.

In the afternoon I had to fold yesterday's laundry, so I did that while rewatching the Due South finale because I was having a craving for Ray K not knowing who he is without Fraser, which is one of my favorite TV scenes of all time, possibly even more so than Geoffrey saying goodbye to Oliver in Slings and Arrows. Glee managed not really to offend me this week, but -- small spoilers -- it also only really held my interest when Kristin Chenoweth was on screen or when Mercedes was singing; I really do not like Kurt, his level of selfishness makes Rachel and Noah seem empathetic, and I am completely bored with Will Schuester's post-marital angst. It was well worth watching for Sue getting credit for the opposite of everything she stands for, though, and for "the first-ever all-white production of The Wiz" and the song from it at the end.

I love when the Os beat the Yankees, so the evening ended well! And speaking of azaleas, here are some photos from McCrillis Gardens last weekend -- based on the rate of petals dropping in my front yard, I suspect these are the last few days to see this kind of color in the area.

Best retweet I've seen all month, snicked from several people: "Conservatives cool with armed guards racially profiling people and demanding to see their papers, but HEALTH CARE reminds them of Nazis?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poem for Tuesday and Lake Whetstone Goslings

The Lightkeeper
By Carolyn Forché

A night without ships. Foghorns called into walled cloud, and you
still alive, drawn to the light as if it were a fire kept by monks,
darkness once crusted with stars, but now death-dark as you sail inward.
Through wild gorse and sea wrack, through heather and torn wool
you ran, pulling me by the hand, so I might see this for once in my life:
the spin and spin of light, the whirring of it, light in search of the lost,
there since the era of fire, era of candles and hollow-wick lamps,
whale oil and solid wick, colza and lard, kerosene and carbide,
the signal fires lighted on this perilous coast in the Tower of Hook.
You say to me stay awake, be like the lensmaker who died with his
lungs full of glass, be the yew in blossom when bees swarm, be
their amber cathedral and even the ghosts of Cistercians will be kind to you.
In a certain light as after rain, in pearled clouds or the water beyond,
seen or sensed water, sea or lake, you would stop still and gaze out
for a long time. Also when fireflies opened and closed in the pines,
and a star appeared, our only heaven. You taught me to live like this.
That after death it would be as it was before we were born. Nothing
to be afraid. Nothing but happiness as unbearable as the dread
from which it comes. Go toward the light always, be without ships.


From this week's New Yorker. Forché's 2004 collection of poems is Blue Hour.

It was a very rainy Monday, and pretty uneventful -- I had a quiet morning doing laundry and other thrilling chores, then went to pick up my new glasses and met my mom for frozen yogurt and a bit of browsing in Macy's and jewelry stores. (We need to get my kids suits that fit them before my niece's Bat Mitzvah next month; they'd rather be tortured with dental implements than taken shopping for clothes.) It was a bit chilly to be really racy for Boobquake, but I did wear my lowest-cut filmy blouse with my tightest black tank top under it.

Paul made veggie Swedish meatballs out of Quorn for dinner; we have Swedish meatballs every year at my in-laws' for Christmas, so that solves the dilemma of whether Adam and I will be able to have Christmas dinner with them. In the evening we watched the 1982 HMS Pinafore at Daniel's request now that he's familiar with The Mikado -- along with The Pirates of Penzance, that's my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and the kids had never seen it, so that was fun! The making-of features on the disc were great too, both the interviews about the production and the footage of sailors on tall ships.

On Sunday when we were at Lake Whetstone, we saw some Canada geese being territorial and chasing a pair of adults and their goslings away from a particular area. For a few minutes I thought Adam was going to jump in the water and separate the aggressive geese from the babies. Here is how it went down:

Someone had been throwing breadcrumbs into the water, even though it is technically illegal, and the goose family came over to investigate.

Soon after, a pair of geese got into an aggressive posture and started chasing the family.

Daddy goose got into an aggressive posture as well...

...and did some flapping and hissing.

Then one of the stealth geese got too close, and the daddy goose bit his neck.

Adam took this photo of the fight with his new camera. Impressive, yes?

Meanwhile the other aggressive goose chased the mother and babies out of the area.

None of the aggressive geese actually attacked the babies, though one of them got dunked at one point. The parents paddled off with them, and the mean geese went back to patrol the shore.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poem for Monday and Rockville Science Day

By Robert Hass

Coppery light hesitates
again in the small-leaved

Japanese plum. Summer
and sunset, the peace
of the writing desk

and the habitual peace
of writing, these things
form an order I only

belong to in the idleness
of attention. Last light
rims the blue mountain

and I almost glimpse
what I was born to,
not so much in the sunlight

or the plum tree
as in the pulse
that forms these lines.


"Robert Hass is a poet of praise: praise for the beauty of the natural world, for the long unfolding of our human story," writes Steven Ratiner in The Washington Post in his review of The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems. "Human conflict continues to serve as the thematic counterpoint throughout his writing, whether on the grand scale of nations or the most individual and intimate circumstances...the attempt to reconcile those two contradictory forces produces, in his best poems, moments of genuine redemption. Conscious of language and its limitations, the tug-of-war between mind and body, Hass's newest work still manages to wholeheartedly engage with the world around him."

Rain had been forecast for Sunday, but after a bit of drizzle in the morning, the sun came out around lunchtime, so after finishing our eggs and pancakes, we left as quickly as we could. Our destination was Lake Whetstone in Gaithersburg, which at this time of year often has goslings, and we were not disappointed -- we saw our first goslings in a patch of grass near the Lakeforest Mall parking lot! And we saw more almost as soon as we arrived at the lake, though the geese appeared to be having a territorial squabble; a group of them hissed at a pair with goslings and chased them partway across the lake. Fortunately, there is a lot of territory to cover -- the central island is home to several enormous heron nests and dozens of turtles, plus plenty of honking Canada geese, some mallards, and a few cormorants.

We walked all the way around the lake, which requires fording a creek in two spots, beginning and ending at the boat house which is still closed at this time of year. Then we headed to Montgomery College for Rockville Science Day, where we spent most of our time in the gym, which houses the Nature and Environment exhibits (Daniel wanted nothing to do with the Engineering and Technology building, probably afraid he'd run into someone he knew at the FIRST Robotics table). There were several displays with live animals, including a local pet store at an exhibit on research for pets, a group showing off their homing pigeons, a local nature center offering buckets of dirt with worms, an environmental exhibit on the health of local creek critters, and Reptile Wonders of the World.

A gosling and a parent enjoying the grass and wildflowers near Lake Whetstone.

The trees on the island at the center of the lake are also home to many great blue herons.

In the trees around the lake, one finds squirrels, caterpillars, and many happily singing songbirds... lots of other birds, including colorful cardinals, robins, red-winged blackbirds, and this blue jay.

We also got to see the sheep grazing on the farm at the border of Montgomery Village...

...and many, many turtles sunning themselves on the rocks in the lake.

There were reptiles at Rockville Science Day as well, though somewhat more exotic -- these, for instance, are Burmese pythons, and The Nature Center On the Go also brought Russian tortoises, bearded dragons, and Savannah water monitors.

And there were exotic birds as well -- this is a green conure on display at an exhibit on how scientific research helps pets.

We stopped in The Container Store on the way home and Adam is now rearranging his room with his new plastic bins. For dinner, Paul made Moroccan saute with chick peas, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, cinnamon, and curry over couscous (he also baked bread, though our brand new breadmaker tried to kill itself by jumping off the counter and will be set on the floor from now on during the mixing stages). I couldn't bring myself to watch Desperate Housewives even for John Barrowman, so we watched The Tudors in its actual time slot, which is admittedly no more virtuous though overall though I think the acting is much better and it's beautiful to look at. They've made Thomas Culpeper so despicable that I can't feel remotely sorry for him and Catherine Howard is simply too stupid to live, which I'm sure was the intention; it will be interesting to see if Lady Rochford meets the same fate on the series that she did in life. Now we're having the massive thunderstorms that very kindly held off till evening, so I had better post this while I can!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poem for Sunday and Local Arboretums

By Kay Ryan

There are bands
in the sky where
what happens
matches prayers.
Clouds blacken
and inky rain
hatches the air
like angled writing,
the very transcription
of a pure command,
steady from a steady
hand. Drought
put to rout, visible
a mile above
for miles about.


"When I first came across Kay Ryan's poetry, I half suspected she was simply writing formal verse fractured into unorthodox lines to disguise its beauty (beauty being anathema to the postmodern sensibility)," writes Steven Ratiner in The Washington Post in a brief review of The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. "Though Ryan is comfortable exploring the natural world, her work is more preoccupied with the realm of ideas than's the poem "Virga," a particularly heady dose of her lush musicality. In the utter complexity of her vision and lyricism, I'm reminded of those mechanical devices of the ancient world meant to show us our place among the stars and help us navigate the uncharted darkness beyond."

We had lofty goals for Saturday -- after Adam got home from volunteering at Hebrew school and Daniel got home from demonstrating his school's robot to elementary school students at a county high school, we were planning to go to Maryland Day at the University of Maryland, but it was raining by the time we finished lunch, and since the campus is enormous (gorgeous, but there's lots and lots of walking between the agricultural school, the communications department, and everything in between), we decided it might not be the best day for the trek. Plus we were going to go seeThe Mikado at Daniel's high school in the evening, but the friend he wanted to see play Nanki-Poo had appeared the night before and wasn't playing the role, and we were all feeling kind of tired.

So instead we went to see the azaleas at McCrillis Gardens, the stunning local park that has hundreds of azaleas blooming beneath tall old oaks and tulip poplars, with everything looking very pretty and shiny in the drizzle. Afterward we drove through Garrett Park, a town that voted in 1977 to make itself an arboretum, with a committee that has planted more than 400 rare trees and shrubs and homeowners of beautiful old Victorians with yards full of tulips, snowball viburnum, and lots more azaleas. While we were in the area, we stopped at MOM's Organic Market to get nuts, oatmeal, low sodium Indian sauces, and peanut ginger tofu.

An azalea with raindrops at McCrillis Gardens...

...which has thousands of colorful flowers -- plus robins, woodpeckers, cardinals, and Carolina wrens -- in a much smaller area than the huge local arboretums.

Many of the purple azalea varieties are already past peak, while the whites are just coming into full bloom.

The garden also has pagodas and lots of places to sit and read or sketch.

Local houses in that Bethesda neighborhood tend to have beautiful yards as well.

Both the huge restored Victorian mansions and the smaller houses in Garrett Park often have colorful yards too...

...with azaleas and dogwood dominating at this time of year.

It must be nice to live in a neighborhood that's an arboretum.

In the evening we watched How the States Got Their Shapes on the History Channel, which was really fascinating -- the lost state of Franklin, the city of St. Genevieve, Missouri which is older than New Orleans and very proud of being French, the onetime capital of Illinois in Kaskaskia which is now an island cut off from the state by the Mississippi River, Pennsylvania's demand to have a Great Lakes port. Then we watched Doctor Who on BBC America (meaning that I am two weeks behind like most people in the U.S., I have not seen this week's UK episode, and I really wish people would keep character name spoilers out of their subject lines). Most of what I liked about the episode had to do with Amy Pond -- I'm completely ambivalent about Eleven in terms of how the Doctor is being both written and performed, but I loved Rose Tyler before I was sold on Doctor Who in the first place, so that's not a bad thing.

Spoilers: Matt Smith just doesn't have the gravitas to pull off a line like "I'd love to forget it all, every day, every second" -- I was imagining how both Eccleston and Tennant would have delivered that line, a variety of ways I could see each delivering the line. I gather this isn't as Doctor Lite as I had feared, or if it will be eventually, they must at least address all the darkness Nine and Ten carried around, plus I am rather nervous about the title and one-line description of the episode "Amy's Choice" (if it has anything in common with Sophie's Choice I may run screaming from the franchise). But I liked Amy from "You never interfere in the affairs of other people or planets unless there's children crying" and she had me at "What if you were really old and alone, the last of your kind?"

The Redskins have let Jason Campbell go for a far-away long-off draft pick, which is kind of sad but we all knew when they got Donovan McNabb that this day was coming. On Sunday the area is going to be crazy -- there's the huge Earth Day rally and concert downtown, but the Metro Red Line is supposed to have shutdowns all afternoon causing hour-long backups, and the storms that caused those horrible tornadoes in the South are heading this way, so I think we're going to stay local and sleep late!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Poem for Saturday and More Ikebana

The Case Against Poetry
By Edward Hirsch

While you made the case against poetry --
Plato's critique of the irrational,
Homeric lying, deluded citizens --
to a group of poets in Prague,

night deepened in old windows,
swallows gathered on a narrow ledge
and called to the vanishing twilight,
and a beggar began to sing in the street.


"As numerous literary fashions have come and gone, Edward Hirsch has resolutely produced the personal, quietly narrative, image-centered lyric poems that were the hallmark of the 20th century," writes Steven Ratiner in The Washington Post in a short review of The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems. "We find work rooted in the old-fashioned concept of the poem as a tool for discovery, whether the subject lies in the self or our shared world. When a Hirsch poem strikes its mark, you feel the utter necessity of its impulse: language unveiling the lived moment."

I have absolutely no explanation of what happened to my morning; I was downstairs by 8:30 but I didn't start working on my "Tapestry" until lunchtime. I did a bit of cleaning up and tried, unsuccessfully, to repair the clasp on a necklace (apparently I am not adept enough to use small pliers) assisted by too many cats. I did a bit of research for Adam, who is looking for a good free/inexpensive video editor that works with MOV files, or conversely a good free/inexpensive program to convert MOV to AVI. And I did a bit of research for myself on scanners -- I still need one, since there is no driver in the world that will make mine work with Windows 7 -- and on where to buy vegan calcium citrate, since I can't tell the source of calcium in the vitamins I currently take.

We had dinner with my parents, then came home for Smallville, which sometimes seems to be turning into Heroes with its big supporting cast and people with powers not trusting each other, but there was lots of Lois, which I liked, though for the most part it was relationship stuff instead of her kicking butt, which I didn't like so much. Then we watched a BBC production of The Mikado because Daniel's high school is performing it this weekend and we're going to see it Saturday night -- as with all productions, there were some hilarious bits and some utterly cringe-worthy bits. The Redskins had no draft picks on Friday, having traded them for Donovan McNabb, but the Ravens took Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle in the second round and last night everyone thought he should have been picked sooner, plus they got defensive tackle Terrence Cody and tight end Ed Dickson, so that's good news.

The Friday Five: Cooking/Food, Again
1. Tea or coffee or juice in the morning, and why?
Usually decaf tea, sometimes juice -- I'm not supposed to have much caffeine and I am supposed to have more fruit.
2. What's your typical breakfast on workdays, and what on weekends? Either hot instant oatmeal with raisins, or one of several organic cold cereals.
3. What do you drink through the day? Lots of decaf tea and water, occasional orange juice, sometimes Diet Coke if I'm out for lunch.
4. Best snack? Unsalted walnuts, frozen yogurt with granola, chocolate.
5. Your favourite dinner when you cook for yourself alone? I don't cook when I'm alone; it would be something like a bagel with cream cheese or hummus and pita.

Fannish5: Name 5 characters you think would have a good time hanging out with you and your friends - in your world, not theirs.
1. Gretchen Berg
, Heroes - she's a total fangirl.
2. Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - in her pre-scary witch years at least, when she was a brilliant nerd.
3. Eowyn, The Lord of the Rings - we'd all admire her skill with a sword and tell her to go for it re: being a warrior, and we'd be happy to giggle with her about how hot Aragorn and Faramir are.
4. Moaning Myrtle, Harry Potter - she'd forget to feel sorry for herself.
5. Jen Lindley, Dawson's Creek - none of us would judge her for her wild past in New York and we'd all sympathize about her family.

From the National Arboretum's annual exhibit, Patricia Painter's Chiko School Ikebana with geranium and Scotch broom.

Judith Roa's Ichiyo School Ikebana with quince and anthurium.

Seiko Behr's Ohara School Ikebana with anthurium, winged euonymus, and gloriosa lily.

Fay McLaren's Sogetsu School Ikebana with New Zealand flax and anthurium.

Elizabeth Biddle's Sensho Ikenobo School Ikebana with cherry branch and stargazer lily.

Marion Scott's Sogetsu School Ikebana with spiraea, red dogwood and ranunculus.

Victoria Melzer's Ohara School Ikebana with mohawk viburnum, lily, and fern.

Jan Pederson's Ichiyo School Ikebana with dogwood, lily, and arborvitae.