Thursday, July 31, 2014

Poem for Thursday and Sharknado 2!

Sharks' Teeth
By Kay Ryan

Everything contains some
silence. Noise gets
its zest from the
small shark's-tooth-
shaped fragments
of rest angled
in it. An hour
of city holds maybe
a minute of these
remnants of a time
when silence reigned,
compact and dangerous
as a shark. Sometimes
a bit of a tail
or fin can still
be sensed in parks.


I should write a better entry and post better photos, but I needed a shark, and I am limp with laughter and somewhat dizzy from Sharknado 2: The Second One, which in fact is even more hilarious than the first (we watched the rerun of that too beforehand). The special effects in the sequel are not quite as godawful, which was part of the charm of the original, but the number of cameos and terrible homages to classic science fiction more than make up for it -- I don't want to spoil anyone who hasn't seen it but everything from The Twilight Zone to Star Wars to Airplane ends up in there.

Is there any point in mentioning the science? Not unless you're playing a drinking game, though if you drink every time something unrealistic happens, you'll be unconscious before the first hour is over. And as terrible as most of the acting is, let alone the dialogue, the female characters are no sillier than the men (in several cases they're much better problem-solvers), and both Sharknado films pass the Bechdel Test, which I hope makes Joss Whedon and The Avengers feel ashamed. Also, the Rob Lowe Shark Week jumping-the-shark commercial is a thing of beauty. From National Aquarium's Blacktip Reef:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Poem for Wednesday and Blacktip Reef

Brokeheart: Just like that
By Patrick Rosal

When the bass drops on Bill Withers'
Better Off Dead, it's like 7 a.m.
and I confess I'm looking
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn
is peeking into my third-floor window
to see me in pajamas I haven't washed
for three weeks before I slide
from sink to stove in one long groove
left foot first then back to the window side
with my chin up and both fists clenched
like two small sacks of stolen nickels
and I can almost hear the silver
hit the floor by the dozens
when I let loose and sway a little back
and just like that I'm a lizard grown
two new good legs on a breeze
-bent limb. I'm a grown-ass man
with a three-day wish and two days to live.
And just like that everyone knows
my heart's broke and no one is home.
Just like that, I'm water.
Just like that, I'm the boat.
Just like that, I'm both things in the whole world
rocking. Sometimes sadness is just
what comes between the dancing. And bam!,
my mother's dead and, bam!, my brother's
children are laughing. Just like—ok, it's true
I can't pop up from my knees so quick these days
and no one ever said I could sing but
tell me my body ain't good enough
for this. I'll count the aches another time,
one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back,
this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones,
I'm missing the six biggest screws
to hold this blessed mess together. I'm wind-
rattled. The wood's splitting. The hinges are
falling off. When the first bridge ends,
just like that, I'm a flung open door.


"My whole life I've had to work it out through the body—by which I mean poetry too," Rosal told

Tuesday was no more exciting around here than Monday apart from continuing magnificent weather that made me not want to do anything but take walks and see the bunnies and deer and enjoy it. I got some boring stuff done, but the only real entertainment didn't arrive till late afternoon when delivered my Blu-Ray of Noah, whose special features I have not had time to watch yet. Adam was out with friends from a hike in the morning through lunch and dinner and he is still not home, so I don't even know what he was doing.

We were talking about going to see Signature's production of Sunday in the Park With George, though it's kind of expensive, so we figured we'd get the DVD of the original Broadway production out of the library and see if that inspired us one way or another, so we watched that in the evening. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters are wonderful in it, as is the supporting cast -- what a treat to see Brent Spiner singing again -- and there are many lovely, creative staging decisions in that initial presentation, plus a lot of visual humor.

The Orioles won! And speaking of Baltimore, here are some photos from the National Aquarium's relatively new Blacktip Reef, which replaced the big shark-and-ray exhibit in the central main floor tank; in addition to blacktip sharks, the beautiful (though hard to photograph because of lighting) reef has rays, puffers, wrasses, unicornfish, a three-flippered sea turtle, even Dory and Nemo (which are apparently now the scientific names of blue tangs and clownfish even among kids who don't otherwise speak English):

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Poem for Tuesday and National Aquarium Australia

Gacela of Unforseen Love
By Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca
Translated by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

No one understood the perfume
of the dark magnolia of your belly.
No one knew you martyred
a hummingbird of love between those teeth.

A thousand Persian carousels slept
in the moon plaza of your forehead,
while four nights I lashed myself
to your waist, enemy of snow.

Among the plaster and jasmine, you saw
I was a pallid branch of seeds.
I sought through my breast
to give you letters of ivory saying always,

always, always: garden of my last breath,
your body escaped forever,
the blood of your veins in my mouth,
your mouth already without light for my death.


My Monday involved laundry and other completely uninteresting things. Apart from magnificent weather -- we had a gorgeous breeze and though the temperatures were in the low 80s, it never felt like it -- there was nothing really notable about it. I did see five bunnies in the neighborhood, but I am pleased to report that this summer, that has happened more than once! Adam had to do a mandatory drugs-and-alcohol online mini-course for the University of Maryland, which took up a lot of his afternoon, though he went to the gym beforehand and biking and hiking at Carderock afterward.

Since Adam was home in the evening, we watched The Darjeeling Limited (and short prequel Hotel Chevalier). As with most Wes Anderson movies, I think Adam liked it better than I did. The visuals as always are stunning, but the female characters are even flimsier than usual, and India apparently exists so white people can have epiphanies there. I wish Anderson would direct films written by someone else! Here are photos of the Australia exhibit at the National Aquarium, which contains many of my favorite Australians (apart from Geoffrey Rush, Hugh Jackman, et al):

Monday, July 28, 2014

Poem for Monday and Blacktip Reef

The Maldive Shark
By Herman Melville

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat--
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.


We have been meaning to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore since Blacktip Reef opened, and on Sunday we finally got there, though Adam had plans with friends to play volleyball so we went without him. I had been afraid they were enclosing a lot of the big central ray tank, which I loved -- I could stand around it just breathing the smell of the water -- but they've actually improved it, installing a coral reef all around and through it and adding many blacktip sharks, plus dozens of other fish (even "Nemo" and "Dory" as the clownfish and blue tang were being called even by people who otherwise did not speak English).

We did not get to see the baby sloth in the rainforest area because the mom was hiding, but we did see the puffins, flying foxes, crocodiles, many turtles, and a huge variety of fish, coral, jellies, and crustaceans. We also visited the dolphins, whom the aquarium is considering releasing into an ocean holding tank instead of keeping captive marine mammals, which I favor completely. Then we walked over to the terrific Asian fusion restaurant Blu Bambu for dinner before driving Daniel back to College Park, where we took him food shopping, then coming home for Masters of Sex. Just a couple of pics of us and the reef:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Poem for Sunday and Rescue Animals

A Tyrant Seeks Conclusion in the Known Self
By Emily Kendal Frey

In California we went to the dive bar and I lost my wallet
I remember falling into it
And maybe kissing against someone's garage
I fell on city sidewalks
In California and other places
The trees looked at me tenderly
I'm guessing
You do not love me because your mom did not love you
I understand the equation
Meanwhile, I make a butter fire in the kitchen
Two times I heat the butter for the eggs
Both times I burn it
Just observe, I tell
My students, describe what is
The woman next to me on the airplane
Moves pictures from her wallet to her pocket
In case we die
I cry with my eyes closed and the Sprite goes by
The unconscious drives us to master
The childhood situation
I wonder if there are spiders
Here, in the carpet or between the seats
A place with bugs is so
Much more friendly
The book I am reading tells me
Ours is an earthbound crisis
That until we cease to dominate
With doing, we will fail
At being
My fingernails
Are the color of rotten peaches
On Orcas Island there's a stone tower on top of Mt. Constitution
Some days you can see for miles, the many
Mountain ranges and pine-crusted bodies
In my mind
I practice dying
I throw myself over the edge
The plane is making its way into the streaking
Sun of this country
In Mexico I slept in a clay structure facing the ocean
I could hear the wind constantly
I bought you a tin heart with a hole in it
I brought it back in my backpack
In bed you said Don't make fun of me
When I'm old, okay?
When I think of your face
I have to think of me
You are holding my knee
And now I look into you
Now I look up and face
The abject fear
I am an animal
The bedroom is trees
Go limp a voice tells me
When a person passes me on their way to the restroom
I pretend they are the kindly face
Of god
Look deep into the eyes
Of the divine
It's so beautiful isn't it
To believe you are looking
At the future


Another quickie as we had a busy Saturday! In the morning Daniel went to renew his learner's permit, but due to a variety of crises at the MVA and literally a two-hour wait time, that has been postponed. By the time he was back here after noon, after having left at around 9 a.m., we ate lunch and went on a small corner of the Montgomery County Farm Tour taking place this weekend, visiting two rescue farms, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary and Star Gazing Farm.

The latter had just closed by the time we got there -- you can see a few of their animals in the last photo below -- but we saw many animals at the former, including sheep, goats, cows, chickens, turkeys, peafowl, guineafowl, pigs, geese, and ducklings! Then we came home for vegetarian chili, Epic Mealtime (the VERY OPPOSITE of rescue farm values), and a visit from a friend of Adam's, and now we are watching the Andrew Garfield SNL rerun!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Poem for Saturday, His Way, Maymont Animals

O Sun of Real Peace
By Walt Whitman

O sun of real peace! O hastening light!   
O free and extatic! O what I here, preparing, warble for!   
O the sun of the world will ascend, dazzling, and take his height—and you too, O my Ideal, will surely ascend!   
O so amazing and broad—up there resplendent, darting and burning!   
O vision prophetic, stagger’d with weight of light! with pouring glories!
O lips of my soul, already becoming powerless!   
O ample and grand Presidentiads! Now the war, the war is over!   
New history! new heroes! I project you!   
Visions of poets! only you really last! sweep on! sweep on!   
O heights too swift and dizzy yet!
O purged and luminous! you threaten me more than I can stand!   
(I must not venture—the ground under my feet menaces me—it will not support me:   
O future too immense,) — O present, I return, while yet I may, to you.


Quickie because Adam is out with friends at a free outdoor movie and the rest of us are watching Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which is pretty good -- I like the cast, I wish Keira Knightley had more to do using her brain and less her body, I'm always happy to see Chris Pine as something other than Captain Kirk, and I have always had a soft spot for Costner in spite of everything, plus, you know, Branagh.

The early part of my day was fairly typical, working on a review of a beloved Deep Space Nine episode, "His Way", then going to pick up Daniel early from College Park because he was sick when he woke up and had to take the day off of work. We had dinner with my parents and took a walk when we got home, going to visit our neighbors and their kittens! Some animals at Maymont last month:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poem for Friday and Kenilworth Garden Animals

The World Seems...
By Gregory Orr

The world seems so palpable
And dense: people and things
And the landscapes
They inhabit or move through.

Words, on the other hand,
Are so abstract -- they're
Made of empty air
Or black scratches on a page
That urge us to utter
Certain sounds.
                              And us:
Poised in the middle, aware
Of the objects out there
Waiting patiently to be named,
As if the right words
Could save them.
                              And don't
They deserve it?    
So much hidden inside each one,
Such a longing
To become the beloved.

And inside us: the sounds
That could extend that blessing --
How they crowd our mouths,
How they press up against
Our lips, which are such
A narrow exit for a joy so desperate.


Mostly I did chores and work and laundry on Thursday. Sadly, I did not get nearly all of it done -- well, the work and laundry, mostly yes, but the ongoing clean-up projects, mostly no. (I require Daniel for the renovation project for his room, for instance.) Adam went biking in the late afternoon after spending the early afternoon shopping for a suit with my mother; do not tell me I'm a bad mother for failing to participate, I was not invited.

We had quiche for dinner and Adam went to a friend's while we watched some Crossbones, though we are way behind so I can't have a conversation about it with anyone who's been following. In honor of the frog I saw (as well as several bunnies) while walking, here are some of the animals in the water at Kenilworth Aquatic Garden last weekend, including a Maryland terrapin brought by the park service to educate visitors about their environmental needs:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Poem for Thursday and Lotus Blossoms

By Karen Skolfield

I spend a long time considering pillowcases.
Which pillowcase does my head want for rest?
A lace edge so that the cheek does not grow bored?

All night the face turns on its pillow,
bridging the day gone with its divination of tomorrow.
The brain sleeps but the body twitches and kicks,

lashes out, steals the sheets, twists the blankets
into thick, furred knots. Thomas Huxley believed
the mind’s shrill whistle contributed nothing

to the locomotive body; Plato, that the mind
knows great truths while the body lives in shadows.
What I know is how sleep releases the body

from me telling it where to put its feet, its fingers,
how the tongue should roll its Rs, when the teeth
may bite or gnash. I give it my consideration

of pillowcases, of lotions and textures it may like,
or farther afield—an actual field—clover against
the skin. The sound of insects rising as the sun sets,

the head leaned back into a cradle of hands,
how the head adores the hands though they
are separated by so much and the jealousy of arms.

Body, I will lay you down beside
another body you have grown to love.
I will bid you still in the moments before sleep
and then I will hand you the keys to the house
and let you spend the night plying all the locks.
In the morning I will wash you with care

and lead you around and treat you kindly
and if there is sobbing it is not my sobbing
and we will both pretend not to hear it.


"I know very little about philosophy, but I delved into it when I began writing this poem and considering our sleeping selves," Skolfield told "Epiphenomenon refers to a mental world that runs parallel to the physical was a chance to speak to the body, my body, lovingly, to console."

I spent hours sorting and rearranging things in my bedroom that no one but me would ever notice had been changed, but I have pretty $1 rainbow-colored glass bottles catching the light in the window now, so I am happy. In other words my day was completely mundane, though there were also bunnies and cats and hair dye (do NOT use that new L'Oreal Preference Mousse, it is the messiest thing ever), and we had pasta with fake chicken for dinner plus ice cream.

Adam went hiking with friends and got sunburned, though he climbed a lot of rocks so he came home happy. We watched Extant, which continues to hold my interest but I feel like the actors (including the very creepy kid) deserve the credit for that far more than the writers; I feel like I'm watching a crossover between Alien 3 only without Sigourney Weaver and Threshold only without Peter Dinklage. Lotus flowers from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last weekend: