Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poem for Thursday and Maryland Spring

In Perpetual Spring
By Amy Gerstler

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies  
and trip over the roots  
of a sweet gum tree,  
in search of medieval  
plants whose leaves,  
when they drop off  
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they  
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal  
human desire for peace  
with every other species  
wells up in you. The lion  
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,  
queen of the weeds, revives  
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt  
there is a leaf to cure it.


Wednesday was my day to get lots of bonus work done because I have so many extracurriculars going on this week! It didn't all get done (i.e. the laundry is still waiting to be folded, since I took a walk and saw a baby bunny and that distracted me for a while because of course I had to take its picture), but I am only way behind on emails and Facebook comments and things that in principle my friends will forgive, while I am mostly on target with Actual Work except wow do I need to vacuum the living room.

I've mostly been avoiding Tumblr because it's a solid wall of Baltimore rage -- understandably, but even people living in Baltimore take a break to laugh with their families and watch schlocky TV -- but I did have to check the Kingsman tag when I heard a sequel was officially in the works and it was pure joyous fannish squee, which I can appreciate even as someone who didn't like the movie. In the spirit of finding things to be happy about, here are some photos of this beautiful day just in my own neighborhood:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poem for Wednesday and National Zoo Guests

Animal / Anima
By Martha Collins

               all of us     all but us     only

       (but not us) the mammals     or only

                 us: animal in us     or only

                    the male of us:     brute

                 no animals     in the Bible

               only beasts     as  of the field

                not us:     it says    breathed

            into     in our image     of the dust

                 anima breath     to anima

                    soul     but all animals

                 breathe the     same     one

                long song     the same     air


It is going to be a week of quickies because I am getting to see lots of friends -- Annmarie on Sunday, Cheryl on Monday, Mila on Thursday, and on Tuesday it was Rachel, who is in town for a conference! Although she used to live not far from here, she had never been to the National Zoo, so we met there late in the afternoon and went to see the sloth bears, small-clawed otters, fisher cats, and pandas on the Asia Trail, dozens of birds in the Bird House and Flight Cage, elephants and lions in their enclosures, and permanent zoo guests like ducklings, mice, deer, and herons:

The weather could not have been more beautiful. After quick visits to Amazonia and the Small Mammal House, we walked to the car and went to Paragon Thai, where we had green and yellow curry among other dishes, all of which were great. We got Rachel back to her hotel in time for her to watch The Flash and caught up with the second half when we got home, then we watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was more confusing than The Flash despite having missed so much of the former and did not leave me panting to see Age of Ultron, though I figure by the weekend maybe I'll be more inspired!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Poem for Tuesday, The Water Diviner, Tulips

The Wind Sleepers
By H.D.

than the crust
left by the tide,
we are stung by the hurled sand
and the broken shells.

We no longer sleep
in the wind —
we awoke and fled
through the city gate.

Tear —
tear us an altar,
tug at the cliff-boulders,
pile them with the rough stones—
we no longer
sleep in the wind,
propitiate us.

Chant in a wail
that never halts,
pace a circle and pay tribute
with a song.

When the roar of a dropped wave
breaks into it,
pour meted words
of sea-hawks and gull
sand sea-birds that cry


Cheryl and I decided that we really needed to see The Water Diviner together on the big screen, so I made her come visit on Monday and we had a perfectly wonderful self-indulgent day. We went to the mall and had Indian food, then went to the movie at the new Arclight theaters which I hadn't been to yet (they are beautiful and I love the ability to reserve seats). The movie is beautifully filmed and acted, very sad in parts but not depressing, perhaps a bit predictable in the structuring of the screenplay, but considering how little Americans know about Gallipoli I don't think that was a bad choice (and the "where is the Armenian genocide?" complaints are like complaining that there's no mention of incarcerated Japanese-Americans in movies about D-Day; The Water Diviner is about how people do terrible things during wartime, it doesn't have time to cover all the terrible things that happened during the war). It's one of my favorite Crowe performances. I wish the female characters were better fleshed out but I like Kurylenko too.

When we left the movie we thought about getting frozen yogurt, then decided we'd rather have chocolate malteds, so we went to Baskin Robbins. Back at my house, we watched a movie called Butter because Hugh Jackman was in it, which I must advise Hugh Jackman fans is not a good enough reason to watch it (I mean, his is one of the less embarrassing performances and he only had a couple of completely cringe-worthy lines that were supposed to be parodies of racism/sexism but instead came off as racist/sexist and I even felt sorry for right-wing Republicans being badly mocked by this film, but he isn't in the movie for nearly long enough to make up for the awful script). We took a quick walk to see bunnies and found a baby bunny on my cul-de-sac I hadn't even known was there before, then we came back and watched Sharpe's Justice. Paul and I spent the evening catching up on The Flash and Once Upon a Time after looking for more bunnies. Here are some of the tulips we saw with Annmarie by the Smithsonian on Sunday:

Be safe, Baltimore. No matter how legitimate your anger and how many stupid decisions the police have made, nothing is accomplished by random looting and destruction of property.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Poem for Monday and DC in Spring

The Echoing Green
By William Blake

The Sun does arise,
And make happy the skies;
The merry bells ring
To welcome the Spring;
The skylark and thrush,
The birds of the bush,
Sing lounder around
To the bells' chearful sound,
While our sports shall be seen
On the Echoing Green.

Old John, with white hair,
Does laugh away care,
Sitting under the oak,
Among the old folk.
They laugh at our play,
And soon they all say:
"Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls & boys,
In our youth time were seen
On the Echoing Green."

Till the little ones, weary,
No more can be merry;
The sun does descend,
And our sports have on end.
Round the laps of their mothers
Many sisters and brothers,
Like birds in their nest,
Are ready for rest,
And sports no more seen
On the darkening Green.


Quickie because we spent all afternoon downtown with the lovely Annmarie on a lovely day with lovely flowers all around and inside the National Mall! We met at the Museum of Natural History, where we went to see the orchid exhibit, then we walked all around the green between the museums (currently torn up in the first stage of renovations) to the gardens behind the Smithsonian Castle and next to the US Botanic Garden, which we also visited briefly. After that we crossed in front of the Capitol (whose dome is under construction as well) to visit the National Gallery of Art, where we saw the Rubens Magi, the Piero di Cosimo exhibit, and the Corcoran highlights now on display there.

We were all a bit fried from our exertions the day before (we merely schlepped around Richmond in the rain, but Annmarie participated in an after-dark 5k), so we came home for dinner. Then we watched Madam Secretary, which is so much better than Once Upon a Time that the latter has been consigned to On Demand viewing, and caught up on Outlander, which I am still not liking nearly as much as the first half-season (yes, it was a violent age, but the maimed and bloody skin porn is nauseating). The Nationals did not have a good day, but the Orioles beat the Red Sox 18-7 and the Wizards swept the Raptors to advance in the NBA playoffs, so it must be considered a good sports day.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Poem for Sunday and Richmond Flowers

April Rain Song
By Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.


We have been in Richmond all day! We went to the VMFA with Cheryl to see Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower, a history of 19th century French still life floral painting, not knowing that it was Springtime in Paris day with lots of floral-related activity for kids plus puppets, jugglers, and other entertainments. After eating lunch in the restaurant there (coconut ginger soup FTW), we went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, where we went to see the Butterflies Live in the conservatory, then had a lovely but very damp walk among the rainy tulips, azaleas, dogwoods, and many other flowers, plus the occasional heron and turtle! We had intended to go to Maymont to see the Japanese garden there, but it was raining so hard when we arrived that we only walked around the upper formal garden, which also has many flowers (plus we got to see another heron down in the lower garden from the overlook).

We had a minor crisis because our car's tire pressure light came on, but putting some air in seemed to take care of the problem, so we had dinner with Cheryl at Mexico Restaurant before driving home in rain and fog. We saw the very bizarre end of the Orioles game, which they ultimately won, though the mayor of Baltimore had asked that everyone remain in the stadium during the final innings because the protests against the police outside were threatening to turn into a riot, and it really looked for a few minutes like the O's had deliberately blown a couple of plays to tie the game in the 9th so that fans would stay in their seats. Baltimore is still looking scary tonight, but of course nothing is as awful as the photos coming out of Kathmandu (and how typical of the U.S. news that most of the focus is on Americans who died in the avalanche on Everest rather than the thousands of Nepalis who died). Hopefully tomorrow there will be better news.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Poem for Saturday, Longwood Gardens, Time and Again

By Rita Dove

I work a lot and live far less than I could,
but the moon is beautiful and there are
blue stars . . . . I live the chaste song of my heart.

— Garcia Lorca to Emilia Llanos Medinor,
November 25, 1920

The moon is in doubt
over whether to be
a man or a woman.

There’ve been rumors,
all manner of allegations,
bold claims and public lies:

He’s belligerent. She’s in a funk.
When he fades, the world teeters.
When she burgeons, crime blossoms.

O how the operatic impulse wavers!
Dip deep, my darling, into the blank pool.


"How to write an old-fashioned poem to the moon -- that luminous orb so swaddled in myth, ensnared in the silvery web of its own symbolism?" Dove asks "Why does the moon call us? Why do we yearn to be called, to step off the hyphen?" I don't think it's an accident that the web site chose today to post the poem.

It was cool but gorgeous again on Friday. I spent the morning working on a review of "Time and Again", definitely not one of Voyager's best installments but it has its moments, plus I took a break to watch The View so I could see Russell Crowe flirting with Whoopi Goldberg (I mean, technically talking about The Water Diviner, but at this point he's repeating himself a bit because the questions are getting redundant and in some cases irrelevant to the movie). Paul worked from home and in the late afternoon we took a walk, where we saw lots of crabapple blossoms and two bunnies.

We had dinner with my parents at Ted's 355 Diner (I had a feta cheese omelet and a chocolate milkshake, which is pretty much the perfect meal, especially with home fries). Afterward we came home, watched the Elementary we missed on Thursday when Dig was on, watched most of the Bruce Jenner interview (more impressive than I was expecting -- even the Kardashians were more impressive than I was expecting, though in fairness I've never watched them before and I avoid articles about them), and watched Russell Crowe on Charlie Rose. Flowers this month at Longwood Gardens:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Poem for Friday, Dig, Sacré-Coeur

The Steps of Montmartre
By Alex Grant

      – after Brassai's 1936 photograph

On the steps of Sacre Coeur
   Cathedral, in that same winter
      when junge leute filled Bavarian

beer-gardens, ten years before
   Adorno proclaimed that there
      could be no art after Auschwitz,

Brassai captured his flawless
   image. Through the tunnel
      formed by the parting trees,

battalions of lamp-posts advance
   and retreat in the morning mizzle,
      clamp chain-link handrails hard

into sunwashed cobbles. In less
   than a year, the corpseless heads
      on Nanking's walls will coalesce

with Guernica's ruined heart, mal
   du siècle will become Weltschmerz,
      and the irresistible symmetry

of a million clacking bootheels
   will deafen half a continent.
      The red brush never dries -

adagio leads finally to fugue,
   haiku to satori, and the image
      fixed in silver to remembering. 


I forgot to post any poetry for Shakespeare's birthday, St. George's Day, or Yom Ha'atzmaut, so I'm just sticking with Montmartre themes to go with the photos. Thursday here was cool but lovely, overcast but with so many pink and yellow trees in the neighborhood that it looked beautiful anyway. My mother invited me out to lunch and since Kay and I had to postpone because of Take Your Child To Work Day -- her son wanted to go to work -- I went with my mother to Mykonos, where we had terrific spanakopita, grape leaves, and stuffed mushrooms. Then we did a bit of shop-browsing (meaning that apart from an entirely gratuitous $9 crystal wind chime, the most exciting thing I bought was shampoo).

My family has discovered to our horror that Verizon does not get the CW On Demand, meaning that we can't watch The Flash episode we missed this week without sitting around a computer, woe! I showed Paul The Tonight Show from last night so he could hear Russell and Jimmy sing "Balls In Your Mouth," then we watched Dig (the Jesus Clones are MEAN! And I can't believe I'm more worried about the cow than half the people). Here are some photos of Paris's Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, which does not allow photos in the sanctuary but does in the crypt (sorry about St. Denis always missing his head, that happened on the hill of Montmartre where the basilica now stands), and the path to the cemetery far below.