Monday, August 14, 2006

Poem for Monday

Saint Joe
By Eugene Gloria

        after James Wright

When the choppers churned and swayed
the swift brown current like a field of cogon grasses,
we dropped a rope below,

but the native girl, no older than my daughter,
was too weak to hold on, and let go.
We had to leave her to refuel, though we knew

what the river would do. When my duty was up,
I chose to come here, for humid sheets over bamboo beds,
for some honey in a slip--

a ninety-pound rice cooker named Ronda
and the soap dance she's known to do. But hardly for love,
as I wait with this man bent in my arms.

When the Coca Cola truck hit this pedicab driver
you could see his rubber slippers fly
all the way up the second-floor window.

His body thrown five meters from his cab.
I imagine the Lord Jesus descending from his cross,
a good marine saving the dead in limbo

But on this god-forgotten street a crowd gathers,
crows peck and gawk, and name me, "Joe."
Their faces tell a separate story, each one

ending with the sweet by and by like the girl
whose hands slipped at the end of my rope
dancing above the fury of a bloated river.

A man in a suit sloughs off, whistles for a cab,
a flotilla of rubber slippers converge on a two-inch lake of rain
A pair of white hands, mine, reach for his limp body.

And from the swollen streets, an ambulance calls,
draws closer, louder. And I hold on,
listen to children chant "Joe" in the rain.


I am back from a really lovely day in Connecticut with my family and much of it with and part of her family. We went to the Mystic Aquarium's Penguin Contact Program, which younger son desperately wanted to do in lieu of having a birthday party -- our original plan was to go with my sister and her two older daughters, but since the older one is still not completely well and they weren't sure if they would send her to camp on Monday, we decided getting together was just not meant to be this weekend and stayed in Connecticut all day without them. We got to pet two different penguins -- one which wandered around our circle in a classroom for half an hour while the caretaker talked about penguin diet, behavior, etc., and another which we took turns playing vet with, listening to its heartbeat, inspecting its beak and checking its wings. It was really wonderful to get so close to the birds and they were extremely amusing -- one was chasing a fly and tried to groom the legs of a couple of participants (there are only ten in each group), and one kept trying to jump over the benches we sat on to walk around the back of the room, so they were very close to us and curious and not at all aggressive while around the children. And adorable!

All the penguins at Mystic Aquarium are named for their assigned colors by which the biologists keep track of their diets and activities.

This one is Redbrown. The blue bead at the bottom of his ID bracelet indicates that he is male (some penguins have white beads there because it's so hard to tell without a blood test!)

As you can see, we got to get up close and very personal with these birds.

And we got to play vet with them, the way volunteers get to do sometimes at the Baltimore Aquarium with dolphins, which the trainers say helps them get comfortable with doctors for when they need them.

They also had toys to play with.

After the private meeting with the penguins, we went to see them all get fed. Note the greedy gull at right that kept trying to steal fish.

After the penguin encounter we met up with and walked through the outdoor penguin habitat and sea lion and seal exhibit, had lunch, saw the beluga whales and indoor aquariums (there is a ray touch tank, a small crustacean touch tank and a crawl-through cave for kids beneath one of the undersea exhibits), visited the Institute for Exploration which has many exhibits on underwater archaeology and marine science plus models of JFK's PT boat and various rooms from the Titanic as well as recreations of excavation equipment and computer simulations the kids can use, saw the sea lion show, then walked over to the shops of Old Mystic Village and went out to dinner at Old Saybrook's Pizza Works, which has great stuff like shrimp scampi pizza and Thai chicken pizza as well as several huge model train displays (photo from our last expedition here, with photos of our last trip to Mystic Aquarium here). The kids hit it off like they'd known each other for years and we had a fantastic time!

I could and later shall describe much more about the aquarium and Mystic overall, but now I must sleep, as we have many miles to drive tomorrow! *g*

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