Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poem for Thursday

Travelers in Erewhon
By Kenneth Rexroth

You open your
Dress on the dusty
Bed where no one
Has slept for years
An owl moans on the roof
You say
My dear my
In the smoky light of the old
Oil lamp your shoulders
Belly breasts buttocks
Are all like peach blossoms
Huge stars far away far apart
Outside the cracked window pane
Immense immortal animals
Each one only an eye
You open your body
No end to the night
No end to the forest
House abandoned for a lifetime
In the forest in the night
No one will ever come
To the house
In the black world
In the country of eyes


If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it. Let's just leave this week at that. I can't talk about it, I can't do anything about it and I suck at pretending nothing's wrong so I am just avoiding people, for which I apologize, as I am very, very grateful for the good vibes. Had a silly irrelevant morning sorting coupons and stuff uncovered in the Great CD Disaster, a calm afternoon taking younger son to violin and overseeing everyone's homework along with illicit attempts to eat Trix cereal, since we have much too much in the house, having bought boxes so younger son could attempt to collect Happy Feet penguin figures that our local supermarket seems only to have in sweetened cereals. On which note, have some warm fuzzies:

Asian otters in their new habitat at the National Zoo.

There are domestic otters near the beavers, but these are smaller and equally adorable.

I should have brought a tripod, as these photos were taken with a telephoto from quite a distance, but I hate having to lug it up all the hills!

The red pandas, however, were not cooperating in posing anyway.

I watched The Constant Gardener, which I had not seen before, and although I had expected it to be good, I had not expected to be so totally engrossed in it...some people had said it got a little bit politically mired near the end, throwing all the Sudanese stuff on top of the Kenyan stuff, and I can see that but I still thought it was very effective and powerful and Fiennes and Weisz were both stellar -- as were Danny Huston, Pete Postlethwaite, Richard McCabe and the very creepy Bill Nighy. I think really good movies about huge global problems are a better distraction than fluff in some ways, though it made me angry and wishing I spent more time getting off my ass and doing things the way Tessa did in the movie after she read stuff that made her angry on the internet instead of just ranting about it. Though I'm feeling sort of tired and resigned and think I am just going to go back to blathering about stupid stuff tomorrow because I don't really see what else I can do except make myself miserable, which would be stupid, and figure out how to save the world next month.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Poem for Wednesday

Beach Glass
By Amy Clampitt

While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.

                    It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty--
driftwood and shipwreck, last night's
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic--with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.

                    The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it's hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass--
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I'm afraid) Phillips'
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.

                    The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.


Got a piece of bad news today of such a magnitude that I think I'm incapable of processing it at the present moment, because I am just going about my life normally, trying not to think about it since there's not a damn thing I can do about it and nothing I can even do to ameliorate it till I can make some phone calls tomorrow and try to get more useful information. Did lots of useless research on the internet this afternoon after doing boring things like folding laundry while watching Heaven Can Wait on some cable channel where I discovered it -- that's my first memory of Warren Beatty and no matter what I've discovered about him in the intervening years, my affection for the movie and for him has stuck. Younger son had Hebrew, older son is supposed to be working on magnet high school applications...exciting stuff like that. I feel completely out of it and can't tell how much is left over from being sick and how much is hoping it's being sick because that, at least, will get better.

watch cruisedirector fight

Trusting David E. Kelley was the right call, and anyway I would forgive Boston Legal for anything. Anything. I was counting on TV to keep me sane tonight and could not have had a better distraction. Picking up where we left off a mere two nights ago, Paul pops in to ask Denny whether he has seen Shirley. "Naked?" Denny asks. "Lately!" Paul corrects. Denny has not, for Shirley is still tied up in Lincoln's basement, where he sings to her on a ukelele and tries to feed her, airplane-into-hanger style with the spoon. He says he wants to suck on her ear, then threatens her, and she says, "Suck my lobe." As it turns out, Gracie Jane is going to recover from Lincoln's assault and appears on TV, bragging that she gets hit harder during sex. Though she can't name her assailant, Lincoln brags to Shirley that it was him, and shows her that he has a spring-loaded crossbow that will go off and shoot anyone trying to come in to rescue her. Meanwhile, Paul advises many of the other lawyers that Shirley is missing, though Claire suggests that sometimes old people just slip off to have work done discreetly.

Denny is depressed that his murder case went away while Alan still has one, but Alan is worried about the circumstantial evidence against Erica...whom he believes probably did kill Paula. Though Jerry is nervous when he is unable to convince Erica to plead insanity for plea bargain leverage, he performs very well in court, pointing out that two people -- Paula's ex-husband and her most recent lover, Renee -- both stood to gain financially from Paula's death while his client hasn't been proven even to have touched the rope around Paula's neck. Renee is upset to be on Jerry and Alan's witness list, but comes across far more normal on the stand than in the stiff, sociopathic way she talks privately, while the husband seems sincerely broken up. On the balcony at the firm after a tough day in court, Jerry admits to Alan that his fantasy in law school wasn't ever to try a big case per se, but to have a drink at the end of a day with co-counsel and discuss the case, "the whole socialization of lawyering that till now I've never experienced." Alan says it's called friendship and offers a toast to it, but as they clink glasses, Denny looks out, sees the two of them and demands, "On my balcony?" Alan says, "Denny, it's not what you think...we were just talking!" but Denny insists that he heard what they were saying and storms off. Later, at dinner with Bella, Denny admits to being unhappy and she says, "Come home to Bella. I'll let you crawl into my warm spot," which makes him pause with his chopsticks halfway to his mouth.

The police say it's too soon to consider Shirley a missing person, but Denise is worried about Lincoln and his "special interest" in Shirley which Denise thinks may be linked to his pathological desire for media attention. Lincoln gets furious when Shirley head-butts him rather than letting him feed her and is further disturbed when Brad and Claire drop by (having decided Mister Dirty Mouth should not be a part of their reconaissance team); they claim the police are still interested in Lincoln as a suspect in the judge's murder, but he sees through their scheme to get inside his house and refuses to let them in. Shirley tries to figure out why Lincoln lived his whole life within the boundaries of the law but is now off the edge, wondering if it was the death of Marsha Hooper that pushed him over and if it's hard for him to go on without her. Lincoln says that Marsha was kind to him and does not want to discuss the restraining order she took out against him. Then he admits that he has no idea how the current situation will end -- he didn't mean to harm Shirley, but has painted himself into bit of a corner -- and Shirley tells him that if this is a game, he wins, because she's afraid.

Jerry announces that he's a walking lie detector; he is certain that Erica is telling the truth when she says she doesn't have it in her to commit murder, while Renee is not being truthful and Paula's husband is holding something back. Alan is fascinated by the idea of Jerry as a human polygraph and says, "One of the reasons I'm drawn to you..." just as Denny comes around a corner, overhears and storms off to his office. When Alan follows, Denny tells Alan not to talk to him. "It's not like I went fishing with him," Alan tries. "And don't make fun of me!" Denny snaps, pointing out that most men don't even make the time to talk to their best friends, let alone have a cigar. "That's not something most men have." He doesn't think jealousy and fidelity are exclusively the province of romantic relationships.

Alan agrees, though that's not enough for Denny, who says, "What I give to you, what I share, I do with no one else." Denny likes to think that what Alan gives to him, Alan gives to no one else, either, and Denny hates the idea of a connection between Alan and "that man" from whom Alan might get something that he doesn't get from Denny. "I probably do," Alan concedes, "but gosh, what I get from you, Denny." Then Alan talks about how people walk around these days calling everyone their best friend, so that the phrase has no meaning, and when you tell people you love them, it barely registers. He pauses. "I love you, Denny. You are my best friend. I can't imagine going through life without you as my best friend." Denny is just about to get teary when Alan says he's not going to kiss him, and Denny splutters that he doesn't want Alan on their balcony or any balcony alone with "that man."

While Brad is telling Paul that he can sense Shirley in Lincoln's house and wants to storm the place -- despite Denise pointing out that last time Brad stormed anyplace, he cut off a priest's fingers -- Alan comes in, asks what's the matter and is told that they believe Lincoln has abducted Shirley but the police won't do anything. Without blinking, Alan says Lincoln admitted to him that he had taken Shirley, so let's tell the police and then they'll get a warrant. The police are doubtful about whether the "confession" is true, but Paul asks the officer in charge which side he wants to risk erring on. While they are racing to Lincoln's house, Alan returns to court with Jerry, who has just discovered the fine print in Paula's life insurance policy. Armed with that information, Alan leads Paula's husband into a line of questioning that ends with the husband admitting his discovery that Paula had killed herself, and, desperate for the money in a life insurance policy with an exemption for suicide, he tied her wrists to make it look like murder. Ecstatic when the judge then drops all charges against Erica, Jerry hugs Alan, who says, "Let's hope Denny doesn't walk in."

Brad wants to join the police raid on Lincoln's house. When they refuse to let him, Jeffrey asks him why he doesn't tell them he's practically a Navy SEAL. Hearing the police enter, Shirley realizes that the room she is in is not soundproofed; she shouts and Lincoln threatens to shoot her, but when the police force the door, he is shot instead by his own crossbow and wounded. Shirley walks out and says that before anyone starts hugging her, she wants to know whether they had the presence of mind to bring vodka. Back at the firm, Denise tells Alan that Shirley was unharmed and wouldn't go to the hospital, so Alan suggests that they celebrate, saying that Denise reminds him of a Catholic schoolgirl who... But just then Shirley arrives, and Denise runs over to hug her, and Shirley tells Alan that she knows he falsified an affidavit -- something she cannot tolerate as a partner, and which will get him fired if he does it again. "No doubt," says Alan. Then Shirley thanks him for very likely saving her life, Alan starts exactly the same Catholic schoolgirl speech he had been giving Denise when Shirley arrived, Shirley tells him to get a life, and Denise follows her out of the room.

Alan still believes that he will get Shirley one day, though Denny assures him that he will not. On the balcony with him, Alan talks about how the brain confuses fear with passion and asks Denny about the fate of his Shirley sex doll, which the police took in for questioning. Denny apologizes for having doubted Alan's feelings for him, but Denny is still traumatized about seeing Alan on the balcony with "that man" and wonders what it is about the place. It's out on ledge 14 floors from death, Alan points out, which gives them a sense of mortality. Denny declares that he wants his remains sprinkled over the balcony and asks Alan whether he can think of anyplace better, which Alan cannot, though since he doesn't want to be cremated, he suggests in his own case yelling "Look out below!" And Denny finds himself happy with the night, the Scotch, and his best friend even if he is high maintenance, so the two toast simple pleasures.

And oh, how I love this show.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Poem for Tuesday

The Poem as Mask
By Muriel Rukeyser


When I wrote of the women in their dances and
      wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
      down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from

There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.


As some of you have undoubtedly noticed, TrekToday has been down on and off for several days (I wasn't actually paying attention Thursday or Friday because of the holidays), and my editor tells me that it is now repaired so on Tuesday I can catch up on Trek news. On Monday I accomplished only one thing, but it was a big one: I finished tagging four years of poetry entries! It's still a work in progress -- I probably have some Canadians mixed up with the contemporary Americans, and I used terms like "mystical" and "metaphysical" rather loosely when it came to deciding where to put people like Donne. It's quite arbitrary who got their own tags -- modern US writers were far more likely to get them because I have so many post-1900 Americans, but I didn't give Marianne Moore one because I just don't love her enough, though I did give Rumi one even though I've only posted eight poems of his and could have put him in with the mystics. Probably on a later pass I will take Tennyson and Longfellow out of Victorian and early American respectively and give them their own tags, though I haven't posted my favorites of theirs because the poems are too long!

I gave tags to Thomas Bailey Aldrich, A.R. Ammons, Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Bishop, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Constantine Cavafy, Amy Clampitt, Emily Dickinson, Stephen Dunn, Robert Frost, Thom Gunn, Anthony Hecht, Jane Hirshfield, James Joyce, David Lehman, James Merrill, W.S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds (who already had a tag), Brian Patten, Kenneth Rexroth, Adrienne Rich, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rimbaud and Verlaine, Pattiann Rogers (also already tagged), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (I put his sister there too, heh), Muriel Rukeyser, Rumi, William Shakespeare (leading the pack with 66 entries), Jane Shore, Shel Silverstein, Charles Simic, Mark Strand, Rabindranath Tagore, Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams. Then I also tagged Asian poets (31), Middle Eastern poets (21), British and Irish poets (60), early American poets (40), English Renaissance poets besides Shakespeare (17), feminist poets (75), inspirational poets (12), Jewish poets (53), Metaphysical poets (13), Modernist poets (53), mystical poets (43), nautical poets (28), Romantic poets (46 -- I was strict, you had to be Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Byron, Shelley or Keats to qualify), Victorian poets (34), poets from the World Wars (25), poets in the news (19), poets in translation (59), poets who have been my teachers in college and grad school (10), 27 miscellaneous entries where I needed to go back and figure out how to categorize them, and then many years' worth of Poets Choice offerings -- 16 for Rita Dove including her own poems, 77 for Edward Hirsch and 137 so far for Robert Pinsky. The monster category remains contemporary American poets -- 258, split over three tags because I couldn't figure out good sub-categories for the writers involved. Probably these tags will never be of any use to anyone but me but I feel accomplished anyway!

My other big achievements of the day were four laundries and organizing my CDs after the Great CD Catastrophe Cleanup ("mine" being a little bitty subset of the total number of CDs in the house, though spouse's are organized too...just still too many for the house *g*). I didn't take notes on Heroes because I was being Led Astray, but the show rocked right up until the preview for next week, when we got one of those ominous Lost-trashy A HERO WILL DIE! warnings. It's not like heroes haven't died before...I assume we are supposed to believe it's a major cast member, but I'll believe it when I see it and given the number of people who've managed not to stay dead thus far, I'm not losing sleep. They could easily kill off the painter now that he's served his purpose vis a vis the cheerleader and is back deep into drugs -- I can't even remember his name, that's how not-attached to him I am -- or, you know, they could kill Jessica (again) and keep Niki. That was a very cool revelation, that she was a twin! I was about to compare it to a certain movie but that would involve a huge spoiler for the movie...but some of you will get what I mean. Also, I really hope Claire's dad continues not to be a bad guy after all, because I really like him.

Remember the baby sloth bear at the National Zoo? He's as big as his mom now! (That's her behind him coming down the rocks.)

He likes to play ball and was hamming it up for the crowds at the new Asia Trail enclosure. Unfortunately the glass did not make for great photos, though it did permit great views!

The baby sloth bear looks just like his father! Though the two live in different parts of the enclosure and can only see one another from a distance, so far as I can tell.

He is also quite adorable and was showing off for people watching him, rolling around and pacing up and down the rocks.

LAST CALL! If you are on my friends list and want a holiday card, go here or send me an e-mail! No reciprocation necessary but I need a head count! And I know I owe my address to people; I lost the list of whom I'd already sent mine to, so you might get it twice. But if you need it, tell me that, too!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Poem for Monday

A Study Of Reading Habits
By Philip Larkin

When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool,
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my size.

Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark:
Me and my coat and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark.
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like meringues.

Don't read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who's yellow and keeps the store
Seem far too familiar. Get stewed:
Books are a load of crap.


Had an incredibly gorgeous 60+ degree late November day, so we spent most of it at the National Zoo. It was tiring, because my throat is still raw and my nose still stuffed and I was caught between Nyquil and Advil Sinus, but very worth it just to be outdoors in Rock Creek Park. Saw the new Asia Trail with the otters, sloth bears, fisher cats, red pandas and redesigned panda habitat, visited the small mammals to see the meerkats, mongooses and porcupines, and went to the bird house which was almost too warm given the outdoor temperature. Apparently the birds inside did not know it was not mating season, since one of them was calling so loudly that it could be heard throughout the entire building, and we witnessed the following exchange of food between this pair:

And the gorgeous early winter trees and cloud-speckled sky deserve a more detailed description, but I am tired, because after we came home, had dinner and finished organizing the CDs, we watched Brokeback Mountain on HBO (for no good reason, since we own it on DVD) and talked about it with the kids, who weren't in the room during the one sex scene I wouldn't have let them watch. Younger son made loud BLECCH noise when Ennis kissed Jack outside his house, which surprised me because I'm sure he's seen men kissing each other before on film and he usually only rolls his eyes when women kiss men in movies. We had a whole long discussion about hate crimes...neither of my kids had ever heard of lynching. Now I can't remember exactly when and how I learned about it, but I keep forgetting how much further away from the civil rights movement they are than I was during my childhood. Anyway, it was an interesting conversation, though younger son later declared the movie boring because there were not enough sheep. (Penguins would undoubtedly have been his first choice.) And after that we watched Boston Legal making a rare appearance in its former timeslot after Desperate Housewives, which continued the trend of totally insane cracked arc stories.

Denny begs Alan to come with him for the results of his paternity test, but Alan receives an emergency telephone call from Jerry that summons him to a murder scene where Erica -- a woman who shares Jerry's psychiatrist -- explains that she blacked out for a couple of hours after an argument with the victim -- her lover -- and she might be guilty of tying up and hanging the woman. Realizing that Erica may become psychotic in prison, Alan convinces Jerry of the necessity of convincing the judge to give her bail. Meanwhile Alan talks to both the dead woman's ex-husband and her new lover, finding that the new lover is a very cold fish who seems more psychotic than Erica...and who has a handwritten will naming herself as the dead woman's heir. The psychiatrist, however, explains that Erica is delusional and hears voices telling her to do things; he believes she could have killed her former lover then blocked out the incident.

Denny discovers to his relief (as the Jeopardy music plays) that he is not Bethany's father, but Bethany still doesn't want to date her mother's former lover. Bella is only too happy to pick up right where she and Denny left off, and she's not taking no for an answer, tackling Denny whenever she sees him to remind him of the good old days. When Bethany shows up to announce to Denny that it's really and truly over, Denny says that she can say whatever she needs to in front of Alan -- "We're married," Alan explains -- and though Denny reads cue cards provided by Jeffrey to try to win her back, it's to no avail. Lincoln flirts with Bella when he meets her, but his priority is convincing Denny to take him on as a client, claiming that Gracie Jane is slandering him on television and he's a suspect in the murder of a judge. To Shirley's horror, Denny agrees to represent Lincoln, even though Denny thinks Lincoln's a "fairy" which causes Lincoln to compare Denny to Mister Dirty Mouth. Lincoln's testimony on his own behalf is so outrageous that Denny suspects he wants to be arrested, "like one of those weird Democrats."

Meanwhile Alan overhears Denise explaining to Shirley that since Daniel died, all she can think about is sex, and offers himself as potential relief from her deferred grief: "After 9/11, people ran around like rabbits." He insists that he will go as low as she wants to give her the debased sex she needs. Denise's usual casual sex partner, Brad, has his own problems, since Mister Dirty Mouth's presence in the office is becoming increasingly intolerable to him. When Jeffrey comes into the men's room and insults the way Brad urinates ("Have you had your prostate checked?"), they come to blows, only to have Paul walk in and scold them, unimpressed with the battling machismo. In private Shirley tells Jeffrey that he was supposed to be a team player, but he confesses that he only moved to Boston to be with her (it sure wasn't the Red Sox), begs her to be with him and convinces her to have dinner with him.

After going unrecognized in a lineup of potential murder suspects for the judge, Lincoln sneaks into Gracie Jane's hotel room pretending to be room service staff, overhears her talking to her editor about the dud murder trial, and whacks her over the head with a shovel, saying, "Oops, I didn't see you there." Then he visits Shirley, whom he rightly observes is primping to go on a date, and when she says that he's a pretty weird guy, he asks her to have dinner with him gunpoint. She tries to tell him that he isn't crazy enough to be doing this, but he insists that she is going to walk out of there with him quietly so they can get on with their special friendship, ultimately tying her to a chair in a dark room with duct tape over her mouth. Later, Jeffrey asks Denny whether Denny has seen Shirley, nearly prompting Denny to come to blows with him, but Denny is tackled by Bella and distracted.

Alone on their balcony for cigars, Denny asks Alan whether he is wrong to dream of a mother-daughter menage a twaddle. "You mean trois," Alan points out. They are discussing the culpability of women and Denny is looking around for below-the-belt midgets when Denise pops out, asks if they're getting some fresh air, and says "See ya" to Alan, whom she previously labeled disgusting for expressing interest in sniffing out her inner bad girl. Denny hopes that Alan's client is guilty as he wants to hear a hot lesbian love story and asks when the trial is. "This Tuesday, ten o'clock," Alan replies, helpfully letting us in the audience know that Boston Legal is not in fact moving permanently into its former time slot after Desperate Housewives. Alan says he believes he can win his case if his client will change her plea, because she's insane...not knowing that Erica is listening just inside the curtains.

This is twice the crack of the usual BL crack, and I am not sure I like all the gay-people-are-crazy storylines suddenly popping out all over...Gracie Jane says that inner perversion always leads to outer perversion and at the moment it appears that the show agrees, though the show never agrees with Gracie Jane on anything so perhaps I should trust David E. Kelley to take this all somewhere unexpected. I hope Denise rescues Shirley, because this is one too many damsel-in-distress incidents, too. And, of course, I hope Brad and Jeffrey relieve the tension between the two of them in the logical way.

Hope everyone who was celebrating had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend! My sister left without saying goodbye, which is really no surprise given that this is my sister. *g*

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Poem for Sunday

Why Regret?
By Galway Kinnell

Didn't you like the way the ants help
the peony globes open by eating the glue off?
Weren't you cheered to see the ironworkers
sitting on an I-beam dangling from a cable,
in a row, like starlings, eating lunch, maybe
baloney on white with fluorescent mustard?
Wasn't it a revelation to waggle
from the estuary all the way up the river,
the kill, the pirle, the run, the rent, the beck,
the sike barely trickling, to the shock of a spring?
Didn't you almost shiver, hearing book lice
clicking their sexual dissonance inside an old
Webster's New International, perhaps having just
eaten out of it izle, xyster, and thalassacon?
What did you imagine lies in wait anyway
at the end of a world whose sub-substance
is glaim, gleet, birdlime, slime, mucus, muck?
Forget about becoming emaciated. Think of the wren
and how little flesh is needed to make a song.
Didn't it seem somehow familiar when the nymph
split open and the mayfly struggled free
and flew and perched and then its own back
broke open and the imago, the true adult,
somersaulted out and took flight, seeking
the swarm, mouth-pans vestigial,
alimentary canal come to a stop,
a day or hour left to find the desired one?
Or when Casanova took up the platter
of linguine in squid's ink and slid the stuff
out the window, telling his startled companion,
"The perfected lover does not eat."
As a child, didn't you find it calming to imagine
pinworms as some kind of tiny batons
giving cadence to the squeezes and releases
around the downward march of debris?
Didn't you glimpse in the monarchs
what seemed your own inner blazonry
flapping and gliding, in desire, in the middle air?
Weren't you reassured to think these flimsy
hinged beings, and then their offspring,
and then their offspring's offspring, could
navigate, working in shifts, all the way to Mexico,
to the exact plot, perhaps the very tree,
by tracing the flair of the bodies of ancestors
who fell in this same migration a year ago?
Doesn't it outdo the pleasures of the brilliant concert
to wake in the night and find ourselves
holding hands in our sleep?


From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, where Robert Pinsky asks, "Why is so much poetry gloomy? There are many good answers to that question. Any day's newspaper is full of them. Shakespeare, mythology and the Bible are not always cheerful. And happiness is very hard to write about convincingly. So is delight. But Galway Kinnell manages a successful catalogue of redeeming delights in "Why Regret?" the final poem in his new book [Strong is Your Hold]."

In the poem, "a winning candor includes, along with what the senses perceive, the poet's happy custom of dictionary-browsing. The speed of the list makes it more effective: lingering too long on the mayfly's brief search for a mate would be sentimental; instead, the poem dashes ahead through the outrageous brio of Casanova's gesture and the child's imagination re-assigning the discomfort of pinworms. And like dictionary-grubbing among the glaim and gleet, the image of the monarch butterflies maintaining the ways of their ancestors acknowledges memory. The poem counters the weight of certain mortality with the comfort of things that continue: life that is alimentary, sexual, intellectual and imaginative as well. The poem is less about its razzle-dazzle images, pleasurable though they are, than about the process that moves through them, and keeps moving: the restless, always-surprising process of life, and of the mind keeping up, for as long as it can."

Still have very unhappy throat and sinuses, but I discovered some old Advil Sinus from before they switched whatever it is that we can supposedly use to make crystal meth and necessitated substituting some other ingredient, and what a difference! Next time I go to the pharmacy and ask what I need to sign to get my old formula instead of whatever ineffective stuff is in Dayquil now. Since I was feeling better we went to Great Falls, which had a lot of people given the magnificent 60-degree weather but never felt crowded:

On September 9th, the new canal boat Charles F. Mercer was launched in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal here at Great Falls, Maryland. This replica packet boat has an aluminum hull with a wooden superstructure.

The Charles F. Mercer replaces the Canal Clipper III, which can be seen resting on dry land behind it here. The Clipper was damaged in 2003 by Hurricane Isabel and retired.

Here she is, the boat out of water. (You can see photos of her at work using the Great Falls tag.)

The Mercer, however, was not traveling anywhere today... the canal had been nearly drained dry in the area for repairs.

This duck puddle is about as deep as the C&O Canal got. The river, however, was nearly cresting over the bank near the walkways to the overlook and was putting on quite a show of sound and fury -- more photos next week.

When we came home, covered our entire living room floor with our entire CD collection, confident that he could get it put away by 1 a.m. when public television finished its Baker-era Doctor Who reruns (speaking of which, my British friend who sent me Casanova also sent me a link to this London Review of Books article from last spring reviewing a critical volume on the series). The bad news is, there are still CDs all over our living room floor. The good news is, because there's a pledge drive, the episodes will be running quite a bit later than 1 a.m. I, however, am not staying up for them, as I wore myself out watching Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones on cable for some unfathomable reason, and the struggle not to laugh hysterically during the love scenes was more than my poor throat can bear!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Poem for Saturday

Letter Home
By Natasha Trethewey

--New Orleans, November 1910

Four weeks have passed since I left, and still
I must write to you of no work. I've worn down
the soles and walked through the tightness
of my new shoes calling upon the merchants,
their offices bustling. All the while I kept thinking
my plain English and good writing would secure
for me some modest position Though I dress each day
in my best, hands covered with the lace gloves
you crocheted--no one needs a girl. How flat
the word sounds, and heavy. My purse thins.
I spend foolishly to make an appearance of quiet
industry, to mask the desperation that tightens
my throat. I sit watching--

though I pretend not to notice--the dark maids
ambling by with their white charges. Do I deceive
anyone? Were they to see my hands, brown
as your dear face, they'd know I'm not quite
what I pretend to be. I walk these streets
a white woman, or so I think, until I catch the eyes
of some stranger upon me, and I must lower mine,
a negress again. There are enough things here
to remind me who I am. Mules lumbering through
the crowded streets send me into reverie, their footfall
the sound of a pointer and chalk hitting the blackboard
at school, only louder. Then there are women, clicking
their tongues in conversation, carrying their loads
on their heads. Their husky voices, the wash pots
and irons of the laundresses call to me.

I thought not to do the work I once did, back bending
and domestic; my schooling a gift--even those half days
at picking time, listening to Miss J--. How
I'd come to know words, the recitations I practiced
to sound like her, lilting, my sentences curling up
or trailing off at the ends. I read my books until
I nearly broke their spines, and in the cotton field,
I repeated whole sections I'd learned by heart,
spelling each word in my head to make a picture
I could see, as well as a weight I could feel
in my mouth. So now, even as I write this
and think of you at home, Goodbye

is the waving map of your palm, is
a stone on my tongue.


Despite having an easygoing day, my cold has decided to get vastly worse instead of better. This sucks. Took younger son to violin at 11, his teacher paid him for feeding her birds and cat while she was out of town, he promptly asked to be taken to the mall so he could get a Test Tube Alien; I made him wait till late in the afternoon, by which time had been sent home from his office which closed early and older son had returned from playing Zelda on the Wii at his friend's house. We had dinner with my parents and nieces -- sister and her husband had gone to see Casino Royale, which they did not like any better than Happy Feet -- I mostly ate leftover carrot souffle, sweet potatoes and stuffing as I really hate day-old turkey, then we sat around chatting for awhile and came home.

I got two awesome early birthday presents: season two of Boston Legal from , and both the Heath Ledger and David Tennant versions of Casanova from my good friend in London, since she had concluded that each had virtues that made it a must-see. Watched the Ledger one, which has gorgeous shots of Venice, is rather feminist in theme and plays like a Shakespearean comedy -- you can figure out which couples will be paired off almost from the start, and it's fun after The Merchant of Venice to see Jeremy Irons as a conservative Church idiot in another production with a cross-dressing woman lawyer (Sienna Miller not being the best I've seen, but vastly better than the vastly overrated Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love). After that public television was showing a Pink Floyd concert (it's pledge drive week, heh), so that's been on in the background. :

1. What are you most thankful for?
My family and friends.
2. Think back one year, have the things you are thankful for changed? Not really. Am slightly more thankful for the US government this year than last, though the balance of power hasn't actually changed yet.
3. What did you feast on yesterday? Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, carrot souffle, red bliss potatoes, German chocolate cake.
4. This time of year is filled with parties, gifts, friends, and family, what are you looking forward to the most? Hanging out in Pennsylvania with my in-laws and sightseeing there.
5. (insert December holiday here) is coming up, what if anything do you want for it? I'm turning 40 in December and will be perfectly happy with health and a working laptop.
BONUS: How do you like to cook your turkey? I like my mother to do the cooking!

A last batch of Bonsai pictures from the National Arboretum. This is a Trident Maple.

Toringo Crabapple, trained since 1905.

Foemina Juniper, trained since 1970.

Needle Juniper, trained since 1966.

California Juniper, trained since 1964.

I love that the leaves change even on the miniature trees.

Saturday we may be going to Great Falls, or downtown, but the cats had BETTER let me sleep late...they didn't on Friday!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Poem for Friday

Richard Cory
By Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Richard Cory
By Paul Simon

They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town,
With political connections to spread his wealth around.
Born into society, a banker's only child,
He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style.

But I work in his factory,
And I curse the life I'm living,
And I curse my poverty.
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show.
And the rumors of his parties and the orgies on his yacht!
Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he's got.

But I work in his factory,
And I curse the life I'm living,
And I curse my poverty.
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch,
And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much,
So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
"Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head."

But I work in his factory,
And I curse the life I'm living,
And I curse my poverty.
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be...


2/3 of this post is here now because when I woke up I realized it should be friends-locked. This is the poetry and photo section. *g* I had a relatively peaceful pre-Thanksgiving meal; sister called in the morning to ask whether younger son wanted to go with her family to see Happy Feet, which sister and her husband hated and let younger son know in no uncertain terms, though their daughters liked it (younger son is quite disgusted with them, which amuses me though given that they are his aunt and uncle, I am not sure I should be so gleeful).

While he was out, my in-laws arrived and we spent a lovely afternoon discussing the election, A Prairie Home Companion of which they are big fans, their west coast grandchildren, the penguins my mother-in-law is knitting for the Oregon grandkids now that she has knitted penguins for younger son, for me (delivered today, whoo!) and the L.A. grandkids, the football playoffs, The Da Vinci Code, geneaology, the Mayflower and Cirque du Soleil (we have the Beatles' Love, whoo! again, and I have the new Loreena McKennitt CD courtesy a friend to whom I offer big *hugs*). A good day, in other words, all in all, which nevertheless left a weird taste in my mouth that seems to have overridden even my gratitude for German chocolate cake and sweet potato pie. My big Thanksgiving list has not changed substantially since 2004, and is here, though this year I am also very grateful that a majority of Americans voted the way they did.

Chocolate chip cookie cake made by (last year's is here).

The SpongeBob pinata my mother got for the kids. You pull the strings on the bottom instead of hitting it, and when the right string is yanked, his butt falls open and candy falls out. This seems a bit perverse to me but what do I know. *g*

The cats, however, had a rather difficult Thanksgiving.

First there were two cats, but only one box. As always, Rosie eventually won this staring contest, but never got in to the box on this occasion -- it was a matter of principle.

Then Cinnamon discovered -- as she does periodically -- that there was a pesky tail chasing her.

No amount of pursuit on either level of the scratching post resolved this issue, though she was eventually distracted by a string with a bell on the end.

(who is someone to whom I owe squee, not to mention comments) informed me that Best Buy has the fourth season of Smallville on sale Friday for $14.99! And they also have the March of the Penguins Game Boy game with a free stuffed penguin, which younger son does not even know exists so far as I know and would therefore make an ideal Chanukah present. But obtaining these means braving a store on the day after Thanksgiving. Is this madness even worth considering?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Poem for Thanksgiving Day

From The Recluse, Book One: Home at Grasmere
By William Wordsworth

This day is a thanksgiving, 'tis a day
Of glad emotion and deep quietness;
Not upon me alone hath been bestowed,
Me rich in many onward-looking thoughts,
The penetrating bliss; oh surely these
Have felt it, not the happy choirs of spring,
Her own peculiar family of love
That sport among green leaves, a blither train!


Having visited Grasmere, this entire long poem really resonates for me, but I'm keeping the excerpt and everything else short since I know so many US people are traveling or dealing with relatives. I had a relatively quiet pre-Thanksgiving, which was what I wanted given that I want my cold to go away by the time I see my relatives tomorrow! I did venture out in the rain for lunch with because Mexican food clears the sinuses wonderfully and we yakked about fandom and music and stuff, then I dragged her into Target so I could get laundry supplies (forgot toilet paper, am hoping CVS is open tomorrow morning or we may have a problem!)

got sent home at about the same time the kids got out of school, so we went together to feed younger son's piano teacher's birds and cat which we volunteered to take care of while she is out of town, then we all went to pick up older son who failed to call and tell us that his bus was 45 minutes late. So it was nearly 5 p.m. when we got home to have dinner, after which we watched the Madonna concert on NBC. I must admit to adoring Madonna unreservedly in concert, no matter what madness she may get up to elsewhere. I'm sorry she didn't do "Like a Prayer" but we can't have everything, and she did do "Ray of Light" and "Like a Virgin." And breakdancing! Trust her to keep the 80s alive. I need to see if there's a way to burn my professional VHS copies of her music video collections to DVD.

The Chinese Pavilion at the National Arboretum, which hosts many of the bonsai; there is also a Japanese pavilion and a tropical greenhouse.

This Western Yellow Pine, trained since 1966, sits at the entrance to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum on the arboretum grounds.

Some of the trees are accompanied by decorations like these debating scholars...

...this fisherman beneath a miniature tree...

...and this musician, perhaps an inch high.

This is another view of the Anacostia overlook. The leaves are long past peak but you get an idea of how pretty it is in the fall.

My husband sent me this article on Global Orgasm, an event we must not miss, with the query, "If enough people protest, will it be a mass debate?" which is one of my father's favorite bad jokes. Make love, not war, I say. Though we will be at my in-laws' which may require a certain amount of discretion. I think my pagan circle is celebrating the Solstice on the 17th, and both these joyous celebrations fall over Chanukah. *giggling* And on that note, have a lovely Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Poem for Wednesday

By May Swenson

Blue, but you are Rose, too,
and buttermilk, but with blood
dots showing through.
A little salty your white
nape boy-wide. Glinting hairs
shoot back of your ears' Rose
that tongues like to feel
the maze of, slip into the funnel,
tell a thunder-whisper to.
When I kiss, your eyes' straight
lashes down crisp go like doll's
blond straws. Glazed iris Roses,
your lids unclose to Blue-ringed
targets, their dark sheen-spokes
almost green. I sink in Blue-
black Rose-heart holes until you
blink. Pink lips, the serrate
folds taste smooth, and Rosehip-
round, the center bud I suck.
I milknip your two Blue-skeined
blown Rose beauties, too, to sniff
their berries' blood, up stiff
pink tips. You're white in
patches, only mostly Rose,
buckskin and saltly, speckled
like a sky. I love your spots,
your white neck, Rose, your hair's
wild straw splash, silk spools
for your ears. But where white
spouts out, spills on your brow
to clear eyepools, wheel shafts
of light, Rose, you are Blue.


My father or my younger son's friend has chosen generously to share his cold with me, so I spent the day being stuffed up and cranky, and it's the wrong time of the month to begin with so I stayed home and drank lots of tea. Reviewed Star Trek: The Animated Series, not in great detail because we're planning to run reviews of each episode after finishing the original series, though since the episodes are short it'll probably be in clusters rather than each one getting its own review. I also tried turning on the entertainment shows to see the alleged Order of the Phoenix specials, but kept running into Tom & Katie and having to change the channel before I got an upset stomach on top of the head cold.

I also had time to catch up on all the activist sites I avoided religiously in the days before the election and just afterward because of the endless demands for money, starting with Planned Parenthood, where I promptly discovered Bush's plan for family planning by refusal to allow same (because celibacy has worked so well, historically, right), so if you would rather not have an anti-birth control, anti-sex education activist overseeing family planning you might want to put in your token protest for all the good it will do -- I don't think anyone is listening. Also Wyoming wolves are in a crisis situation...see, this is the other reason I stop reading activist pages, I just make myself hysterical with all the things I can't really do much about. Ah well, told me about the shopping penguin on YouTube and even though I am flabbergasted that people can keep penguins as pets in Japan no matter how they encountered them, I am also amused.

Bonsai at the National Arboretum. This is a Japanese White Pine that has been trained since 1625.

This Thorny Elaeagnus has been trained since 1825.

A Japanese Maple, trained since 1906.

A California Juniper, trained since 1968.

A Chinese Elm whose dates were labeled unknown.

And a Buttonwood from the tropical was nearly 80 degrees in this room.

In the early evening, in honor of the date, we watched JFK on one of the Cinemax channels. Haven't seen it since it was first in the theaters and my general impressions remain the same: the ludicrous excesses are still ludicrous excesses and Costner's Southern accent is only a marginal improvement on his British accent, plus Sissy Spacek is wasted in her role and Gary Oldman, while brilliant as Oswald, doesn't get nearly enough screen time (they should have cast him in Don DeLillo's Libra). But it's worth it just to see the light it sheds on the Zapruder film and the Magic Bullet theory. Tuesday nights are just not the same when there is no Boston Legal. Have had assorted sports on, including football highlights and currently UCLA beating Kentucky, but please don't ask for details as I have not been paying attention. Sister and her family are coming tomorrow, Thanksgiving madness will start, I just want my sinuses to stop hurting!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Poem for Tuesday

The Vision
By John Clare

I lost the love of heaven above,
  I spurned the lust of earth below,
I felt the sweets of fancied love,
  And hell itself my only foe.

I lost earth's joys, but felt the glow
  Of heaven's flame abound in me,
Till loveliness and I did grow
  The bard of immortality.

I loved but woman fell away,
  I hid me from her faded flame.
I snatched the sun's eternal ray
  And wrote till earth was but a name,

In every language upon earth,
  On every shore, o'er every sea,
I gave my name immortal birth
  And kept my spirit with the free.


I am sure I did something of importance today worth mentioning here but damned if I can think what it is. Oh wait, I do know one thing: all my icons are now here in my scrapbook instead of at where they used to be! I haven't uploaded every single one and there are some there that I didn't make, but were made for me, and I don't have any credits or comments yet. But that's where they will ultimately reside. A lot of them really suck but I kept them for nostalgia's sake anyway. And I need a Tenth Doctor icon, and I suppose a Heroes icon and maybe even a Shark icon.

Otherwise I did some work, folded some laundry, watched some animated Star Trek so I can review it, got my son's violin teacher's keys so we can take care of her birds while she's out of town for Thanksgiving, had a war with's rebate form and managed to get younger son to practice the violin before he went flying downstairs to the Wii, which he only got to play on a school day in the first place because there's no homework this week as so many kids are out of town. One of his classmates is moving back to Fiji after several years in the US, so they are having a class party for her on Wednesday.

Loved this week's Heroes -- I had it in my head that they were headed into a cliffhanger and break, so I was very pleased to get a coming attraction! Though I like the show a lot, I really don't think about it as soon as it ends -- I'm not in the fandom as such, not trying to work out the mysteries, so it took me until Peter was looking at the scan of the painting to realize that, duh, if Peter absorbs other people's powers, he could die and come back just like Claire if she was with him when he died. I did like the ambiguity about which cheerleader needed to be saved and which one Sylar wanted to kill...I'd been wondering whether we were going to find out that Jessica had been a cheerleader or something to throw everyone off. "Are you the one? By saving you did I save the world?" "I don't know, I'm just a cheerleader." And then poor Peter getting carted off...I hope he's out of jail by the end of next week's episode or I will be very angry with Claire's father! Then we watched the end of Monday Night Football, where Jeremy Shockey looks just enough like Boromir to keep me happy but Chris Berman's tie should come with a warning for epileptics.

This bee at the National Arboretum on Sunday is apparently confused about which season it was only in the 50s and very few flowers remained.

And the poor bee inside this flower apparently did not realize it was sniffing around a fly trap!

The National Capitol Columns, probably the most recognizable feature for people who have been to the arboretum. These used to hold up the Capitol dome (more info here, more photos of them tagged). They seem very Ozymandias to me, despite the pretty fountains in the middle.

A koi surfaces in the big pond by the visitor's center.

The water has black dye in it to keep algae that is bad for the fish from growing there. People can get fish food in the summer, but in the winter the koi are supposed to hang out at the bottom of the pond, and they looked most displeased at the lack of free food.

This is the view of the Anacostia River from through an enclosure -- we crunched through all those leaves.

Just found out that I cannot go to the family Chanukah party, which my cousin scheduled around her side of the family without asking us, because we will be at my in-laws for Christmas (the party is technically the day after Chanukah ends). My father's uncle is quite ill and it is quite possible this could be his last family Chanukah party, so I am torn, but we have tickets to see a Dickens show in Pennsylvania already. Sigh.