Monday, March 31, 2014

Placeholder for Monday

Cheryl is here and we are all just back from seeing Noah, which is amazing in many regards, in both the cinematic sense and in the what-the -- well, if you saw Darren Aronofsky's interpretation of the Tree of Life in The Fountain, you understand. (It's not stranger than the Kabbalah, but the visual parallels with The Lord of the Rings -- and in one case with Galaxy Quest -- did throw us out of the story for a few moments!) Crowe and Connelly are absolutely wonderful and Watson does the best work I've seen from her. Without spoiling anything, I will note that I prefer Bible stories in which it is clear that God is the bad guy, not Cain or Pharaoh or whoever is the ostensible adversary, so I found it very satisfying in that regard. And the flashback to the Creation story is utterly phenomenal. Now we are watching Shoujo Cosette to calm ourselves down! More tomorrow!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Poem for Sunday, Truman Show, Brookside Flowers

My Daughter Among the Names
By Farid Matuk

Difficult once I've said things
to know them this morning
the lights above the tollway all off
at exactly 7:36
all "we took our yellow from the pewter sky."

But we have so many
things!    Stories
about our diction, the leather couch
some trees and our ages.
What about all the rooms the sky makes—

she tried several
spaces today, under a desk, a nook
bent to her.
I thought of picking a fight
with dead Bachelard.
Her small body a new host for
waters, spaces brought round
for viruses, their articulations, their ranges.

Think of all the products
left behind by a shift in design—
iPod cases, dancers called spirit rappers
sites where "women, negroes, natives were acted out"
for Rev. Hiram Mattison "vehicles of impurity."

"My children too have learned
a barbarous tongue, though it's not so sure
they will rise to high command"— Tu Fu or
Bernadette Mayer on Hawthorne's American Notebooks
a boy tried to hang a dog in a playground, she said.

O structural inequalities! O explanations!
The owner of the desert house we rented
plants butterfly bushes, cenizo, and columns
of dark leaves where birds go.
Sharp sweet dung smell off the horse trailer

after it pulls away.
What about all the rooms the sky makes?
Faint blue expanse
a long far line of electric poles
a mountain I can see. Dog yelps almost digital

maybe from inside a car at the Dollar General.
She made her first marks today
on this page
rain    hand    here


It was a very rainy Saturday, though thankfully not very cold. Adam went to a track meet in the morning and called requesting that we bring towels for himself and the friend he carpooled with. We had him home from Gaithersburg before noon, had lunch, and went out to do a bunch of shopping (new bicycle tire pump, hair stuff, cat stuff, Michaels).

In the late afternoon I did a bunch of bead reorganization (I inherited a bunch of beads from a friend months ago and I'd never even sorted them). After dinner we watched The Truman Show, in part because Adam had never seen it -- like Bob Roberts, I think it has actually gotten more relevant now that some of its excesses are more believable!

After Adam went to bed, we caught up on Nashville which is the biggest soap opera ever but had three great songs this week. And we watched Wolverine: The Musical, in which Hugh Jackman crosses over Les Mis and X-Men, hee! Since our daffodils stayed closed for the weather today, here are some photos from Brookside's conservatory last month:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Poem for Saturday and College Park Open House

Mother Rachel
By Rachel Barenblat

how long did you labor
contractions slamming you
against the rocks

Benjamin's first cry
your last breath
beneath the swelling moon

the hidden sages
call you Shekhinah
motherhood incarnate

your death, Her descent
into the long night
of exile

rest in your tomb
dry as a seedpod
watching from the road

the root of spring
you wait for redemption
to flower in us


We spent nearly all day Friday at the University of Maryland, which was having an open house (well, an open campus) for admitted students yesterday and today. Many of Adam's friends were there, and though he has announced that he is sick of college visits, he agreed to go to the business school and entrepreneurship program presentations, since he's been admitted to both and has been offered a substantial scholarship. He would really like to go to college out of state, which I understand, but I've also been impressed with Daniel's programs and he has been very happy in College Park. After the meetings, we had a late lunch with Daniel, then went out for ice cream with one of Adam's friends at the campus dairy.

The undergraduate dean of the business school in a presentation photo...

...and pretending to box with the vice dean.

I had never been in Van Munchen Hall before, though I have been all over the campus hundreds of times.

We saw the familiar Testudo (one of several on campus) in the student union, where we had lunch in the food court...

...and drove past the farm, where there were a great many lambs!

From earlier in the week, here is younger son with his driver's license...

...and driving to Starbucks without me!

After we said farewell to Daniel and went home, I finished up a review of Deep Space Nine's excellent "Favor the Bold" (warning: I will be describing pretty much every DS9 episode from now till the end of the series as excellent) and went to see if the daffodils are open in the neighborhood yet (mostly not). We had dinner with my parents, watched some basketball (Michigan certainly tried to keep things interesting in the end; congratulations, UConn), then came home and Adam worked on scholarship applications for Michigan while we all watched a screener of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was better than its reviews and had some very nice Icelandic scenery.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Poem for Friday and Frying Pan Farm Park

Gradeschool's Large Windows
By Thomas Lux

weren't built to let the sunlight in.
They were large to let the germs out.
When polio, which sounds like the first dactyl
of a jump rope song, was on the rage,
you did not swim in public waters.
The awful thing was an iron lung.
We lined up in our underwear to get the shot.
Some kids fainted, we all were stung.
My cousin Speed sat in a vat
of ice cubes until his scarlet fever waned,
but from then on his heart was not the same.
My friend's girlfriend was murdered in a hayfield
by two guys from Springfield.
Linda got a bad thing in her blood.
Everybody's grandmother died.
Three times, I believe, Bobby shot his mother.
Rat poison took a beloved local bowler.
A famous singer sent condolences.
In the large second floor corner room
of my 4th grade class the windows were open.
Snow, in fat, well-fed flakes
floats in where they and the chalk-motes meet.
And the white rat powder, too, sifts down
into a box of oatmeal
on the shelf below.


Thursday: work, bunnies, daffodils, basketball, Pocahontas 2, Russell&Paul, and now Russell on The Tonight Show singing Johnny Cash with Jimmy Fallon. Here are some animals from Frying Pan Farm Park; Friday morning early we are going to College Park for an admitted students reception so Adam can talk to the business school and honors program people, and we're having lunch afterward with Daniel -- more tomorrow!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poem for Thursday and Spring Celebrations

The Parallel Cathedral
By Tom Sleigh


The cathedral being built
around our split level house was so airy, it stretched
so high it was like a cloud of granite
and marble light the house rose up inside.

At the time I didn't notice masons laying courses
of stone ascending, flying buttresses
pushing back forces that would have crushed our flimsy wooden beams.
But the hammering and singing of the guilds went on

outside my hearing, the lancets' stained glass
telling how a tree rose up from Jesse's loins whose
flower was Jesus staring longhaired from our bathroom wall where I

always wanted to ask if this was how he
really looked, slender, neurasthenic, itching for privacy
as the work went on century after century.


Fog in cherry trees, deer strapped
to bumpers, fresh snow marked
by dog piss shining frozen in the day made
a parallel cathedral unseen but intuited

by eyes that took it in and went on to the next
thing and the next as if unbuilding
a cathedral was the work
that really mattered--not knocking

it down which was easy--
but taking it apart stone
by stone until all

that's left is the cathedral's
outline coming in and out of limbo
in the winter sun.


All through childhood on eternal sick day afternoons,
I lived true to my name, piling dominoes
into towers, fingering the white dots like the carpenter Thomas
putting fingertips into the nail-holes of his master's hands.

A builder and a doubter. Patron saint of all believers
in what's really there every time you look:
black-scabbed cherry trees unleafed in winter,
the irrigation ditch that overflows at the back

of the house, chainlink of the schoolyard
where frozen footsteps in the snow
criss-cross and doubleback. And now the shroud falls away

and the wound under his nipple seeps fresh blood.
And when Jesus says, Whither I go you know,
Thomas says, We know can we know the way?


It was clear but cold on Wednesday, meaning that there is still snow on the ground, but the big news here is that younger son has passed his driving test and now has a Maryland drivers license! (Which of course he took advantage of pretty much as soon as we got home from the MVA, driving to Starbucks without us.) The wait was only moderate and everyone we talked to at the MVA was friendly for a change except they told me to move the car from the test lane after he passed the test, then didn't want to let me back in the building because they had technically closed five minutes earlier, d'oh.

We watched the second episode of The 100, which is mediocre and derivative in most ways, but the three smartest characters are all women (possibly the four smartest, it's hard to tell about one of the girls), so much is forgiven. Then we watched The Americans, where I spent the whole episode worrying one woman was going to kill another woman (I still think that ultimately that's the likely endgame -- that or the woman's husband -- which is upsetting). Here are a few more photos of what really had better be the last snowstorm of the spring, plus one from this afternoon when it was melting!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Poem for Wednesday and ENOUGH ALREADY

Falling Snow
By Kajiwara Hashin
Translated by S. Kazuo, P. Donegan, and K. Tadashi

no sky,
no land -- just
snow falling


Remember how I promised not to post any more snow pictures this spring? I LIED. We had snow that started before I was out of bed and fell until after dark. Since the temperature hovered right around freezing, it didn't stick to the roads, but we got over two inches on the deck and the grass, and at times we had great big white flakes falling all over the neighborhood flowers that have been trying to come up for weeks. Adam was disappointed that school was not canceled or delayed, but having his track meet called off meant that he had more time to get things done after school. I went for a walk in the morning and another in the afternoon:

Paul worked from home to avoid having to drive in the white stuff. In the afternoon, when we had both finished our work and I still had laundry to fold, we watched American Psycho since neither of us had ever seen it -- I have always avoided it, I was afraid it would turn me off to Christian Bale forever, but it only seemed very slightly beyond Wolf of Wall Street, like this was the next logical step. Evening involved watching the Maryland women advance, catching up on Once Upon a Time, and watching Hugh Jackman judge an X-Men tattoo competition on a reality show I will never watch again!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Poem for Tuesday and Brookside Color

It had been long dark, though still an hour before supper-time
By Charles Reznikoff

It had been long dark, though still an hour before supper-time.
The boy stood at the window behind the curtain.
The street under the black sky was bluish white with snow.
Across the street, where the lot sloped to the pavement,
boys and girls were going down on sleds.
The boys were after him because he was a Jew.

At last his father and mother slept. He got up and dressed.
In the hall he took out his sled and went out on tiptoe.
No one was in the street. The slide was worn smooth and slippery--just right.
He laid himself down on his sled and shot away. He went down only twice.
He stood knee-deep in snow:
no one was in the street, the windows were darkened;
those near the street-lamps were ashine, but the rooms inside were dark;
on the street were long shadows of clods of snow.
He took his sled and went back into the house.


Monday was Paul's birthday, so I got to have both lunch and dinner out with him -- lunch at Minerva in Gaithersburg, where I had lots of paneer, tandoori eggs, dal, naan, and various side dishes plus gulab jamun, then dinner at my parents, where at Adam's request we had pasta because he's running at a track meet tomorrow and needed carbs. My mother got a birthday cake for dessert, so I ate what must be described as an insane amount.

Otherwise, my day involved some work, some laundry, and some necessary shopping (I have another freaking eyelid infection and really do not want to go to the eye doctor, but it's hard to find warm compresses that will stay over an eye without lying flat on my back). Plus there is a new X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer and we got a new Dallas! Here are a few photos from Brookside's conservatory last month, since we need flowers in case of snow on Tuesday:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Poem for Monday and Not Yet Spring

Spring Snow
By William Matthews

Here comes the powdered milk I drank
as a child, and the money it saved.
Here come the papers I delivered,
the spotted dog in heat that followed me home

and the dogs that followed her.
Here comes a load of white laundry
from basketball practice, and sheets
with their watermarks of semen.

And here comes snow, a language
in which no word is ever repeated,
love is impossible, and remorse. . . .
Yet childhood doesn’t end,

but accumulates, each memory
knit to the next, and the fields
become one field. If to die is to lose
all detail, then death is not

so distinguished, but a profusion
of detail, a last gossip, character
passed wholly into fate and fate
in flecks, like dust, like flour, like snow.


Quickie because we got home late after taking Daniel back to College Park -- his spring break ends tomorrow morning. So we let him sleep as late as he wanted while Adam worked at Hebrew school. We didn't see much of Adam today because he biked to DC along the C&O Canal towpath with friends from school; unfortunately his bike got a flat tire in the city and they got somewhat lost around Dupont Circle trying to get it changed, so they took the Metro back to the area, but we didn't retrieve him till dinnertime.

The rest of us went for a walk at Locust Grove, which still looks pretty wintery (and we have winter temperatures again, which would bother me less if we did not have snow forecast for Tuesday, bah). Paul made us Swedish meatballs since his mother's recipe was what he wanted for his birthday, which is on Monday. After we ate, we went food shopping with Daniel and took him back to his apartment, getting home just in time to watch Cosmos with Adam. Here are a few not-very-springy pics from the park:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Poem for Sunday and Mount Vernon Lambs

The Westmoreland Girl, Part I
By William Wordsworth

To My Grandchildren

Seek who will delight in fable
I shall tell you truth. A Lamb
Leapt from this steep bank to follow
'Cross the brook its thoughtless dam.

Far and wide on hill and valley
Rain had fallen, unceasing rain,
And the bleating mother's Young-one
Struggled with the flood in vain:

But, as chanced, a Cottage-maiden
(Ten years scarcely had she told)
Seeing, plunged into the torrent,
Clasped the Lamb and kept her hold.

Whirled adown the rocky channel,
Sinking, rising, on they go,
Peace and rest, as seems, before them
Only in the lake below.

Oh! it was a frightful current
Whose fierce wrath the Girl had braved;
Clap your hands with joy my Hearers,
Shout in triumph, both are saved;

Saved by courage that with danger
Grew, by strength the gift of love,
And belike a guardian angel
Came with succour from above.


We had a beautiful Saturday, over 70 degrees, so I am cautiously optimistic that spring has arrived, though we are still being threatened with flurries on Tuesday. Even though it's too early for many flowers or baby animals, we decided to go to Mount Vernon, which entailed a lovely drive down the George Washington Parkway which is lined with forsythia and daffodils that are starting to emerge. Mount Vernon was very crowded with spring break school groups, so we didn't take the house tour, but there are some flowers in the formal gardens. The big pregnant pig doesn't have piglets yet, but there are many lambs in the upper field with their mothers, and the chickens and cows are out, too:

Paul's birthday is Monday, but Daniel will be back at school by then since his spring break ends Sunday. So we went to the Silver Diner, since they have lots of veggie stuff Adam and I like and also steak which Daniel likes, plus roast turkey which the birthday boy likes, and we all got dessert since his was free. Adam had plans to go out with friends in the evening and Daniel had some homework to finish, so the rest of us watched basketball -- Adam is in a pool at school so most of our rooting for teams at this point has to do with brackets, not deeply held loyalties, though I might secretly be rooting for Villanova right now against UConn for all the good it will do!