Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Poem for Wednesday and John Sloan in Delaware

Fifteen Years of Darkness
By Liu Xiaobo
Translated by Jeffrey Yang

Before dawn at home in Beijing, 6/4/2004
Fifteenth anniversary offering for 6/4

15 years ago
a massacre took place at daybreak
I died then was reborn

15 years have passed
daybreak bayonets dyed red
is still a blade fixed in the eyes

15 years have passed
I still have nightmares of those departed souls
I see them soaked with blood
I write each stroke each line
as an outpouring of the tomb

15 years have passed
within the darkness of vanished freedom
I wait for the hour-hand to point to pre-
dawn's advent of the fifteenth anniversary offering

Tonight, in this city without altar
I hope the dead souls can see my eyes
and turn my watchful gaze into the flicker of a candle flame
Not the sacrificial spirit money for the ancestors
not the raging blaze that illuminates the cold night
but memory's nakedness
is like a bone that will not decay

15 years ago
martial-law troops besieged the Square
the military broadcast the order over and
over, a continuous transmission of gunshots and bloodthirsty news
A few hours before
the gathering crowds, the clamoring crowds
then in a blink the light was extinguished
people fled like a surge of quicksilver
leaving behind an empty void

Among the hunger-strike tents on the Monument
I gathered with the students and local residents
continuous gunshots rang out
bullets struck the Monument
sparks sprayed off the marble
I released an eye-flooding flash
broke an automatic rifle in half
though I can't break open the silence of the dark night

Facing an unpredictable fate
I stare dumbly into the darkness
unable to discern if the starlight abyss
is hell or paradise

15 years have passed
unexpected bloodshed has suffocated me
unexpected prisons have hardened me
I've become a thick stone
yield to the lashings of political terrors
expression hardened, frozen
always unchanged

From the massacre's bloodshed to harsh surveillance
the horrors of that night
have yet to move half-a-pace away
After the house-raid then handcuffs
after handcuffs then prison
after prison then the police sentry at my building's gate
A personal shadow
interrogates our houseguests
Phones tapped
mail vetted
all forms of communication cut off
Let me turn into a blind-and-deaf man
in the dark dark night
to resist the silence

Walls of a cell may confine the body
but no cell walls can restrain the soul

15 years have passed
a murderer's regime
forces one to desperation
A nation that tolerates a murderous regime and forgets the killed
forces one to deeper desperation
A survivor of the massacre powerless to demand justice for the victims
forces one to the deepest desperation
But in such desperation
remembering the departed spirits
is the only hope left

Let the darkness transform into rock
across the wilderness of my memory


My Tuesday morning was occupied with chores because I had nice evening plans -- Lebanese Taverna with Angela and Carrie -- so I got everything done but folding the laundry and tried to do a bit of shopping before dinner, though I stopped in the toy store Child's Play because there was a note on Silver Moon Gallery announcing that the store was closed due to the funeral of the owner, Irv, whom I have known as a customer for decades, and I learned that he had had a stroke over the weekend and that everyone in the shopping center was very sad. So I didn't feel like getting shampoo or Thor: Ragnarok Legos.

Dinner was lovely, both the food and getting to hang out with friends -- we said in December that we should do this every month, and we're not far off that schedule! Then I came home and watched The Flash and Black Lightning because there was no way I was watching that speech that creep was making; I am catching up now on the late night comedy shows, since Noah and Colbert are live, and reading the passages online being mocked the most. Here are photos from the Delaware Art Museum's retrospective of John Sloan, a Philadelphia illustrator turned New York political cartoonist and American landscape painter:











Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Poem for Tuesday and Longwood Orchids

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.


I spent all of Monday morning on the phone, text, and Messenger -- I have several friends having assorted health and family crises and after the weekend I wanted to know how they were doing. Is it January? It seems like so many crises always hit in January, whether it's new year money issues or winter colds and flu. So I was behind on everything by lunchtime, when I went to walk in the park to clear my head. I couldn't find any snowdrops but there were a few winter jasmine blossoms in my neighborhood, which made me feel better.

We discovered that I had a birthday coupon for California Pizza Kitchen that never got used in December and expires on January 31, so since I have plans the next two evenings, we decided to go eat there. Maddy had finished working for the day so she joined us for dinner and we talked to a bunch of her work friends, including a classmate of Adam's. Later we watched Supergirl (I really love Lillian Luthor, though I also love all the female bonding) and caught up on Blindspot (really good this season). From Longwood Gardens yesterday, color!









Monday, January 29, 2018

Poem for Monday and Brandywine Valley Visit

The Waltz We Were Born For
By Walt McDonald

I never knew them all, just hummed
and thrummed my fingers with the radio,
driving five hundred miles to Austin.
Her arms held all the songs I needed.
Our boots kept time with fiddles
and the charming sobs of blondes,

the whine of steel guitars
sliding us down in deer-hide chairs
when jukebox music was over.
Sad music’s on my mind tonight
in a jet high over Dallas, earphones
on channel five. A lonely singer,

dead, comes back to beg me,
swearing in my ears she’s mine,
rhymes set to music that make
her lies seem true. She’s gone
and others like her, leaving their songs
to haunt us. Letting down through clouds

I know who I’ll find waiting at the gate,
the same woman faithful to my arms
as she was those nights in Austin
when the world seemed like a jukebox,
our boots able to dance forever,
our pockets full of coins.


Paul and I spent the day in the Brandywine Valley, starting in Wilmington at the Delaware Art Museum, then the Brandywine River Museum and Longwood Gardens across the border in Pennsylvania. It was very gloomy outside so it was a perfect day to spend in museums and among flowers! Here are some photos from the region:

It was a gray, rainy day but we saw lots of indoor color.

We went first to the Delaware Art Museum to see the final day of the John Sloan exhibit. Sloan did most of his illustrations and painting in Philadelphia and New York, so there were many familiar locales as well as some pointedly political art.

Since we were there, we also went to see the extensive Pre-Raphaelite collection and artists inspired by them.

The Brandywine River Museum overlooks the river. We went to the retrospective of George A. Weymouth, a du Pont descendant who studied with local artists, and to the various Wyeth galleries.

It was also the last day of the holiday train display which we used to visit with our kids, so we went to see them.

Longwood Gardens is in the midst of its orchid extravaganza.

There were some slugs hanging out by the pitcher plants.

There is lots of indoor color, though the outdoor gardens are pretty much dormant till spring.

We got home in time for the start of the Grammys, which I enjoyed though I had few passionate feelings (I was rooting for Jay-Z but more for political than musical reasons). I loved Alessia Cara, P!nk and Kesha's performances, and of course I loved seeing Patti LuPone sing "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" and Miley with Elton John.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Poem for Sunday and Ellicott City

By Hiram Larew

I’ve never been able to add right
Somehow for me one plus one turns into black wavy hair
And all the stars up there—they just become
Eyes glancing down.
Even as a kid when I overheard someone counting
All I could think of was skin.
I am just estimated
Like how straw scatters in wind.
Things are almost too much for me—
When I dream of vast prairies
Or am in a crowd of luck
I’m stunned by so much desire.
In fact lately I’ve realized that
When a tally is taken
I’ll be the chewed pencil.


From the Little Patuxent Review's Summer 2017 issue, a publication started by Ellicott City poet Laura Shovan.

We spent most of Saturday in Ellicott City with Alice, Jeremy, and Avery, plus I got to see Kate who was in the neighborhood! We met the Duehrings at Dimitri's Grill for Greek food, then drove into town, visited the B&O Station Museum which still has its holiday train displays up, and did some shopping at the comic and toy stores as well as the Forget-Me-Not Factory which is my favorite shop in the state. We also visited the Patapsco Women's Institute, although the grounds were closed so we couldn't see any of the reputed ghosts.

When we got home we were still full from lunch and the chocolates we got in Ellicott City's excellent candy store, which had to relocate after the flood that destroyed much of the town a couple of years ago including our favorite Asian restaurant there. So we had bagels for dinner while watching the Four Continents skating championships. Maddy stopped by with a friend from work who turned out to be a former middle school crush of Adam's childhood friend. Now we're waiting for SNL. Here are some photos from Ellicott City:

Model trains at the Ellicott City B&O Station Museum.

Alice took this photo in front of the museum.

And I took this one of her family by the caboose out back.

Here is Paul inside the caboose.

And here he is with Alice's family looking at the Lego train display.

We had lunch at Dimitri's in Catonsville.

The bar has a big Orioles mural instead of Greek decor.

We also visited the Forget-Me-Not Factory.

And we met Kate in town and all went to the ruins of the Patapsco Women's Institute together.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Poem for Saturday and Friday Friends

By Murakami Kijo

Although there is the road,
The child walks
In the snow.


I had a nice busy Friday and got home late so will keep this short! Alice and Avery came to visit Maddy and me -- I took Avery to a Pokemon raid while Alice and Maddy were catching up, then we all went to the Original Pancake House for brunch and Barnes & Noble afterward. Then we dropped Maddy off at a friend's and hung out for a while before Alice went home.

Paul and I went to my parents' for dinner along with our friends the Bergers, who throw the Super Bowl party we go to every year -- Linda and I have known each other since elementary school, so we have a very long shared history and have known each other's kids since they were born. Now I'm watching Bones while catching up on email. Here is today, with kittens:







Friday, January 26, 2018

Poem for Friday and Kiparoo Farm

A Sheep is Asleep On My Sofa
By Kenn Nesbitt

A sheep is asleep on my sofa.
A sheep is asleep on my floor.
A sheep is asleep in the closet,
and seems to be starting to snore.

A sheep is asleep on my dresser.
A sheep is asleep on my bed.
I found when I woke up this morning,
a sheep was asleep on my head.

A few can be found in the corner.
They’re soundly asleep in a heap.
There isn’t a space in my bedroom
that isn’t all covered in sheep.

With so many sheep in my bedroom,
I’m thinking I wasn’t too bright,
and maybe I shouldn’t have asked for
a sheepover party last night.


I dropped Maddy off at work and did a bunch of shopping on Thursday, some fun (Pier 1 for candleholders, Crabtree & Evelyn for 70% off holiday pomegranate lotion), some less so (Giant for tub cleaner). And I met friends in the mall for coffee. That was most of the excitement of the day, apart from seeing two bunnies out enjoying the neighbors' yard.

We watched some Bones -- we just saw the one with the US Senator who refused to toe the party line so his body was ground up by a street sweeper -- and a bit of the Four Continents skating championships (the Japanese guy currently in first should play the title character in the live-action Yuri on Ice). From Kiparoo Farm during Frederick's museum tour:









Thursday, January 25, 2018

Poem for Thursday, X-Files, Walters Books

By John William Burgon

It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.


My Wednesday was unexciting. I had dinner plans that fell through because one of my friends has a concussion and the other wasn't feeling well, and I haven't figured out how to make my computer talk to my Roku yet. My catsitter friend came over in the evening to visit us and brought Cinnamon a heating blanket, which Cinnamon is very pleased about though Daisy is trying to find a way to sneak onto it.

But The X-Files!!! Which I think of as "the member berries episode"! The FLASHBACK! The Donald Trump jokes (aliens building a wall to keep us in our solar system because we send drugs, crime, rapists, and some, they assume, are good people: "You are free to explore Uranus all you want"). A conspiracy nut being right twice a day. Date Night. However the series ends, this is the episode I'll think of as the finale.

We also watched the Petra: Lost City of Stone episode of NOVA, which was very interesting and played the Raiders of the Lost Ark music because they know we know it from the movie, not the poem above. I forgot to mention yesterday that we watched The Flash's stupid prison storyline and the awesome Black Lightning (Anissa!!!). Historic books and art based on Shakespeare, Sappho, and the Bible from the Walters Museum in Baltimore: