Sunday, July 31, 2016

Poem for Sunday, Son Home, Kidwell Farm

Anyone's Son
By Tara Skurtu

For the family of Trayvon Martin

This poem wants to write itself backwards.
Wishes it were born memory instead, skipping

time like a record needle stuck on the line
of your last second. You sit up. Brush not blood,

but dirt from your chest. You sit up. You're in bed.
Bad dream. Back to sleep. You sit up. Rise and shine.

Good morning. This is the poem of a people united
in the uniform of your last day. Pockets full

of candy, hooded sweatshirt, sweet tea. This poem
wants to stand its ground, silence force

with simple words, pray you alive, anyone's
son — tall boy, eye-smile, walk on home.


Adam is home! We planned our day around getting to Dulles to pick him up in the mid-afternoon, so we got to do several fun things in northern Virginia. First we picked up Maddy and Christine and went to the Metro 29 Diner in Arlington, where we met Alice, Jeremy, and their son for brunch (I had excellent eggs florentine and several people had their very thick French toast). It rained while we were eating, but had cleared up by the time we finished, so while they went off to Front Royal, we went to Frying Pan Farm Park's Kidwell Farm, which had the farmhouse open and peacocks protecting their eggs:

Because it was quite hot, we stopped for Slurpees near the airport, then we got a text from Adam that he was on the ground so we went to retrieve him. He hadn't slept for over 24 hours because he had a paper to finish to IEEE standards before he left Texas, so he was pretty tired and we came home to let him relax for an hour before going to dinner at my parents' house, accompanied by Christine. We watched some of the Nationals-Giants game, which did not end well for most of us though Maddy is a San Francisco fan. Eventually we came home, Adam collapsed into bed, and Paul and I are watching Bones!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Poem for Saturday, Worst Case Scenario, Ingrid Michaelson

To E
By Sara Teasdale

The door was opened and I saw you there
And for the first time heard you speak my name.
Then like the sun your sweetness overcame
My shy and shadowy mood; I was aware
That joy was hidden in your happy hair,
And that for you love held no hint of shame;
My eyes caught light from yours, within whose flame
Humor and passion have an equal share.

How many times since then have I not seen
Your great eyes widen when you talk of love,
And darken slowly with a fair desire;
How many time since then your soul has been
Clear to my gaze as curving skies above,
Wearing like them a raiment made of fire.


Quickie as we spent most of the evening in Tysons Corner seeing Ingrid Michaelson at their Summerfest Concert Series on the Plaza (she was great, it was only an hour concert which I wished was longer) and having dinner with my friend Shalini. Christine told us about the concert, so we drove her and Maddy, who then met up with more of Adam's friends from college and went off with them afterward while we were at Pita Pouch in the mall food court. We got free selfie sticks from 94.7 too!

Tysons Corner has a dozen Pokespots that everyone put lures on, so I caught a Horsea and a Drowzee, plus I hatched a Onix, but I was happiest about finally finding a lowly Diglet. My only other accomplishment for the day was posting a review of Voyager's Worst Case Scenario, which remains just as much fun as it was when it first aired, even knowing that no one else on the crew wrote the fan fiction the storyline Tuvok's initial training exercise seems to demand.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Poem for Friday and America's Shakespeare

Philadelphia Flowers
By Roberta Hill


In the cubbyhole entrance to Cornell and Son,
a woman in a turquoise sweater
curls up to sleep. Her right arm seeks
a cold spot in the stone to release its worry
and her legs stretch
against the middle hinge.

I want to ask her in for coffee,
to tell her go sleep in the extra bed upstairs,
but I’m a guest,
unaccustomed to this place
where homeless people drift along the square
bordering Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

From her portrait on the mantel,
Lucretia Mott asks when
will Americans see
how all forms of oppression blight
the possibilities of a people.
The passion for preserving Independence Square

should reach this nameless woman, settling
in the heavy heat of August,
exposed to the glare of every passerby.
What makes property so private? A fence?
No trespassing signs? Militia ready to die for it
and taxes? Lights in the middle storeys

of office buildings blaze all night above me.
Newspapers don’t explain how wealth
is bound to these broken people.
North of here, things get really rough.
Longshoremen out of work bet on eddies
in the Schuylkill River.

Factories collapse to weed
and ruptured dream. Years ago, Longhouse sachems
rode canoes to Philadelphia,
entering these red brick halls.
They explained how
the law that kept them unified

required a way to share the wealth.
Inside the hearths of these same halls,
such knowledge was obscured,
and plans were laid to push all Indians ,
west. This city born of brotherly love
still turns around this conflict.

Deeper in the dusk,
William Penn must weep
from his perch on top of City Hall.
Our leaders left this woman in the lurch.
How can there be democracy
without the means to live?


Every fifteen minutes
a patrol car cruises by. I jolt awake
at four a.m. to sirens screeching
and choppers lugging to the hospital heliport
someone who wants to breathe.
The sultry heat leads me
to the window. What matters? This small
square of night sky and two trees
bound by a wide brick wall.
All around, skyscrapers

are telling their stories
under dwindling stars. The girders
remember where Mohawk ironworkers stayed
that day they sat after work
on a balcony, drinking beer.

Below them, a film crew caught
some commercials. In another room above
a mattress caught fire and someone flung it
down into the frame. A woman in blue
sashayed up the street

while a flaming mattress,
falling at the same speed as a flower,
bloomed over her left shoulder.
Every fifteen minutes
a patrol car cruises by. The men inside

mean business. They understood the scene.
A mattress burning in the street
and business deadlocked. Mohawks
drinking beer above it all.
They radioed insurrection,

drew their guns, then three-stepped
up the stairs. Film crews caught the scene,
but it never played. The Mohawks
didn’t guess a swat team had moved in.
When policemen blasted off their door,

the terrified men shoved a table
against the splintered frame.
They fought it out.
One whose name meant Deer got shot
again and again. They let him lie

before they dragged him by his heels
down four flights of stairs. At every step,
he hurdled above his pain
until one final leap
gained him the stars.

The news reported one cop broke his leg.
The film’s been banished to a vault. There are
no plaques. But girders whisper at night
in Philadelphia. They know the boarding house,
but will not say. They know as well what lasts
      and what falls down.


Passing Doric colonnades of banks
and walls of dark glass,
passing press-the-button-visitors-please
Liberty Townhouses, I turned
up Broad Street near the Hershey Hotel
and headed toward the doorman
outside the Bellevue. Palms and chandeliers inside.
A woman in mauve silk and pearls stepped into the street.

I was tracking my Mohawk grandmother
through time. She left a trace
of her belief somewhere near Locust and Thirteenth.
I didn’t see you, tall, dark, intense,

with three bouquets of flowers in your hand.
On Walnut and Broad, between the Union League
and the Indian Campsite, you stopped me,
shoving flowers toward my arm.

“At least, I’m not begging,” you cried.
The desperation in your voice
spiraled through my feet while I fumbled the few bucks
you asked for. I wanted those flowers—

iris, ageratum, goldenrod and lilies—
because in desperation
you thought of beauty. I recognized
the truth and human love you acted on,

your despair echoing my own.
Forgive me. I should have bought more
of those Philadelphia flowers, passed hand
to hand so quickly, I was stunned a block away.

You had to keep your pride, as I have done,
selling these bouquets of poems
to anyone who’ll take them. After our exchange,
grandmother’s tracks grew clearer.

I returned for days, but you were never there.
If you see her — small, dark, intense,
with a bun of black hair and the gaze of an orphan,
leave a petal in my path.
Then I’ll know I can go on.


Some days you get angry enough
to question. There’s a plan out east
with a multitude of charts and diagrams.

They planned to take the timber, the good soil.
Even now, they demolish mountains.
Next they’ll want the water and the air.

I tell you they’re planning to leave our reservations
bare of life. They plan to dump their toxic
wastes on our grandchildren. No one wants to say

how hard they’ve worked a hundred years.
What of you, learning how this continent’s
getting angry? Do you consider what’s in store for you?


We had lots of thunderstorms on Thursday that cooled things off somewhat, and Hillary Clinton is officially the nominee of the Democratic Party so I'm happy. It was not a very eventful day; Maddy stayed at the house where she's cat-sitting, then went to Ikea with Christine, while I did work and almost caught a Wartortle at the post office but he broke out of one Pokeball and two Great Balls, then ran away!

Maddy and Christine came back here for dinner (Paul made Philly cheesesteaks in honor of the DNC, plus hot fudge sundae cake) and we all watched A Little Chaos, all being fans of Rickman and Winslet and appreciating Versailles. Now we're watching the convention winding down and what a high note for a conclusion. From the Folger Shakespeare Library's America's Shakespeare exhibit:

Emerson and Dickinson's volumes of Shakespeare

Jacob Adler as Shylock in a Yiddish production in New York

Lincoln's assassin in his previous career as an actor

Abigal Adams quoting Coriolanus in a letter of advice to her husband

Rebellious colonists compared to characters in Henry VI

New York Times Shakespeare Tercentenary issue

1916 Bible-Shakespeare Calendar

Shakespeare volume for US soldiers in the Great War

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Poem for Thursday, DNC, Dream Houses

A Touch
By Rose McLarney

We rinse the glasses
from which we will drink

affordable whiskey
with scotch or absinthe,

my love and I, the less than
a swallow left of good

liquor scenting the whole
cocktail. What intoxication

we afford each other
cannot be excess or impure.


A dried-out, overused river
runs through, or rather,

idles in, our small city
where we never intended to settle.

Birds alight on odorous pools stranded
between mudflats, a baptism

in reverse—the body that enters
proclaiming the water clean.

They dip down plumed heads
to say this is enough.


The pigeons, so adaptable, delight
in dropped scraps. While we—

however many lovers late in life
—rub the rims of Sazeracs

with an orange’s remaining peel,
arousing a perfume.


Guess what, it's still really hot here! And I did a lot of walking, because I found out about Pokevision, so when there was a Jigglypuff (finally!) or a Goldeen around the corner, I could rush out and get it. But otherwise it was an uneventful day. I wrote most of a Voyager review, I took Maddy to feed and play with the cats she's watching and played with them while she did various chores.

And I watched the Democratic National Convention and enjoyed pretty much every moment, from the Broadway singalong to Biden's speech to Kaine's speech to that fantastic introduction for Obama to Obama's speech (and he is still the greatest speaker in half a century, possibly an entire century though I've only heard JFK and FDR in recordings so I probably can't judge fairly).

So I'd call it a pretty good day, except older son discovered that he has bedbugs in his building (is it safe to bring his luggage in the house when he visits next month?). Speaking of houses, here are some of the Dream House installations in the Small Stories: At Home in a Dollhouse exhibit at the National Building Museum, in which artists were invited to build miniature rooms:

The Cupboard Under the Stairs by Louise Krasniewicz

Gothic Bath by Samuel C. Miller IIII

Reverie of the Stars by Mars Tokyo Designs

The Exile of Prospero by L. Delaney

#unicornsarereal by Bridget Sue Lambert

The Age of Magic by The Mouse Market

Rejuvenate by Paris Renfroe

Mousem in a Box by Jill Orlov

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Why I'm Voting For Clinton

My friend Marta posted something the other day that encapsulated some things I keep saying in people's comments, so I am going to paraphrase her and myself here again for my #NeverHillary friends, particularly those on the left rather than the right.

We can vote for candidates based on how much we align with their expressed ideologies and how much we admire them as human beings, but our political system was founded by very flawed human beings -- slave-owners and wife-beaters and wealthy men who didn't feel like paying taxes. I wouldn't throw out Thomas Jefferson's words, but I cringe when I think about the fact that he could rationalize owning human beings. Eleanor Roosevelt said many things with which I agree, but she forged political alliances with bigots and bullies when she felt it was necessary.

We don't vote solely because we agree with or even like a particular candidate. There have been many politicians in my lifetime for whom I voted while holding my nose -- pretty much everyone from either major party in Chicago when I lived there -- and none I have universally admired. I think Jimmy Carter genuinely cares for the poor and has spent decades being a devoted and invaluable public servant, but his foreign policies were disastrous and his willingness to get in bed with Yasser Arafat made even a pro-Palestinian J Street Jew like me dislike and distrust him. Bill Clinton I know to be a serial harasser of women and extremely insensitive on racial issues, yet many of his policies were laudable and paved the way for progressive gains even under Republican administrations.

Politics is about compromise and consensus. It sounds great, in principle, to be an independent and to be able to say exactly what you think and vote exactly as you wish, and we need strong independent voices in Congress. But we also need people who know when to compromise for something imperfect that they can have today -- say, a health care bill to cover all Americans -- than to refuse to pass any legislation until it's precisely what they hoped to achieve. We sometimes choose to vote for people just because they can get important things done, even if they aren't the people we think would be ideal to do those things. The ideal people aren't always running or winning.

And sometimes one of the people in a particular race represents such a threat that it's far more important to vote against that person than to vote for any particular candidate. When I was young and segregationist Democrats were running for Maryland's top offices, I'd have voted Republican in a heartbeat, even though I disagree with a lot that was in the Republican party platform at the time and there were plenty of criminals in the running (hello, Spiro T. Agnew). Blocking the racists was far more important at the time than cleaning up the petty crooks. Refusing to vote, or voting for a respectable third party with no chance of winning, would not have addressed the real threat to the state from the bigots.

It sounds great to talk about revolution and major change, but I'd love for someone to point me to one revolution that didn't come at massive cost to large numbers of people, often people who didn't get any say in whether they felt strongly enough about the ends to sacrifice their families and homes. This is true whether we're talking about a war, a regime change, or a shift toward industrialization, centralization, globalization. That doesn't mean it's never worth doing but I am really uncomfortable when the word "revolution" gets thrown around as if it's a better solution than the long hard work of negotiation where sometimes it's harder to see concrete gains at any particular moment. It's only afterward, when, say, voting rights have been secured or health care has been established or same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, that it's obvious the progress was slow but steady.

I am far more comfortable seeing my vote as a way to get someone in office who will do the things I want done than as a declaration of my admiration for or approval of a politician. Even if I thought a third party candidate had a ideal platform that best represented my personal views, I'd be much more invested in keeping the candidate who clearly would do a great deal of damage out of office than I would be in electing someone of whom I consider myself a fan. There's no one running who has policies and positions that I agree with completely, but even if there was, if I didn't see any way that person could implement those policies, I'd choose to vote for someone who could get some part of the biggest issues addressed rather than risk allowing someone who would actively oppose many of those things to take office.

I've supported Hillary Clinton this entire election cycle, not because I find her personally more admirable nor her positions more desirable than those of Bernie Sanders, but because she's been the candidate with by far the most progressive policies that a president can implement even while facing an obstructionist Congress. I'm glad Sanders pushed her to the left on several issues, I'm sorry the Democratic Party itself is leaning toward the right on several issues, but neither of those comes close to being a reason to "make a statement" by voting Green and watching Donald Trump become president. I'm sure Jill Stein is a perfectly fine person, but I might as well write in my mother, who is also a perfectly fine person with no chance of winning. Using my vote to express my personal dissatisfaction rather than to elect someone who can accomplish what I consider important for all of us goes against my values far more than anything Clinton has ever said or done.

Poem for Wednesday, Glen Burnie Gardens, Clinton

Another Poem About Time and Metamorphosis
By Jose Padua

Although I was said to have been born
human, it wasn’t long before I became thing,
thing being a stream of water, or on better days
a river or bay. Some days I am grass, all of it,
everywhere in the world from the grounds
of an emperor’s estate to the patch where
the man without a home rests his head,
followed by entire years when I exist
as a single blade of grass, slender and green
like all the other blades on a boring lawn
in the suburbs. There are minutes when
I am a single sad hill followed by weeks
when I am the Himalayas, towering over
boundless lands from great and powerful heights.
When I am a mountain it is harder to walk,
but when I am a river I find it easier to
navigate through difficult social situations.
This is when humans call on me the most.
To celebrate their progress of riches with
a long, slow beautiful ride of self-applause
and self-referential speech. Or else to send
their enemies somewhere they’ll never
be found and never come back from
in the belief that it will make all of us
a little safer. And I fall like rain on the streets,
splatter like bugs on car windshields,
shake the asphalt like big, speeding trucks,
before sending you off like a one way
bus ticket to the cold, desolate end of the highway.
Then I cool the air, slowing everyone down,
bringing about the change in the seasons.
I take the subway back uptown.


It was nice and cool on Tuesday, by which I mean the thermometer remained under 100. Maddy was supposed to start cosmetology classes, but they had low enrollment due to people being on vacation and postponed the start. That was frustrating for her, though she is cat-sitting for friends this week so she has things to do. I watched the Voyager episode I'm reviewing this week, the very enjoyable "Worst Case Scenario" -- nostalgia!

I don't care what anyone thinks about Hillary Clinton, I absolutely loved watching a woman be nominated as the Democratic candidate for president, and I was glad they did the roll call and let Sanders speak. I wasn't going to watch Bill Clinton because, you know, Bill Clinton, but I did, and he still speaks very well, though he's no Michelle Obama. Some photos from the formal Glen Burnie Gardens at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Poem for Tuesday and Icebergs

Calm Is All Nature As A Resting Wheel
By William Wordsworth

Calm is all nature as a resting wheel.
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass;
The horse alone, seen dimly as I pass,
Is cropping audibly his later meal:
Dark is the ground; a slumber seems to steal
O'er vale, and mountain, and the starless sky.
Now, in this blank of things, a harmony,
Home-felt, and home-created, comes to heal
That grief for which the senses still supply
Fresh food; for only then, when memory
Is hushed, am I at rest. My Friends! restrain
Those busy cares that would allay my pain;
Oh! leave me to myself, nor let me feel
The officious touch that makes me droop again.


Quickie because it was 100 degrees today, I had to go out in it because I'd promised to take Maddy to Target (she wanted to stop at Sally's Beauty Supply nearby, so I got to stop in World Market and get tea before my July coupon expired), and I'm half-watching the post-Democratic convention coverage after watching Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders (who I thought gave by far the least interesting speech of the night, but he did what was so urgently needed and gave his supporters specific reasons to vote for Clinton, not just to vote against Trump).

My neighbor and cat-sitter Rose visited early in the evening when the convention coverage started, so I probably missed some celebrities, which is probably just as well. Now I have to go unfollow a bunch of people blathering about how their privilege allows them to vote for Trump by proxy, supporting an anti-vaxxer who'd leave California children with no water or power in a rush to turn off nuclear power plants. Here are some more photos from the National Building Museum's Icebergs exhibit, including the kakigori stand, the view from the top of the slide, and the pillars:

Monday, July 25, 2016

Poem for Monday, DC Museums, Chasing Liberty

Sonnet CIX
By William Shakespeare

O! never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seemed my flame to qualify,
As easy might I from my self depart
As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie:
That is my home of love: if I have ranged,
Like him that travels, I return again;
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe though in my nature reigned,
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stained,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good;
   For nothing this wide universe I call,
   Save thou, my rose, in it thou art my all.


I got to spend an awesome, very warm Sunday with Cheryl and Paul, who made lunch for us all before we went downtown (sans Maddy who wanted to sleep in), skirting Nationals traffic to go to the Folger Shakespeare Library for the last day of the America's Shakespeare exhibit, which includes Abigail Adams quoting the Bard in letters, artifacts from the lives of both Lincoln and his assassin, and clips from several movie and TV adaptations including the Hamlet performance on Gilligan's Island.

From there we went to the National Building Museum, which has a bunch of exhibits we wanted to see. The big one is Icebergs, which takes up the center atrium  with a "glacial sea" filled with big artificial ice sculptures, some of which light up and some of which can be walked through or slid down. We ate Japanese kakigori and visited the big foam playground, the new acquisitions and paper models, and Small Stories: At Home in a Dollhouse which has dollhouses from the V&A Museum illustrating how homes developed.

We came home late in the afternoon and watched Chasing Liberty, the somewhat dated, fairly silly Roman Holiday remake about Mandy Moore as the President's daughter and Matthew Goode as her love interest. The dialogue is ridiculous but the actors are all cute and the scenery is nice. We chatted with Maddy who was working on her schedule, had bean burritos for dinner, took a brief walk to see bunnies, since we'd already seen two while leaving in the morning, then Cheryl went home and Paul and I watched some Bones.