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The Little Review
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Poem for Saturday


Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets
By David Young


It's summer, 1956, in Maine, a camp resort
on Belgrade Lakes, and I am cleaning fish,
part of my job, along with luggage, firewood,
Sunday ice cream, waking everyone
by jogging around the island every morning
swinging a rattle I hold in front of me
to break the nightly spider threads.
Adlai Stevenson is being nominated,
but won't, again, beat Eisenhower,
sad fact I'm half aware of, steeped as I am
in Russian novels, bathing in the tea-
brown lake, startling a deer and chasing it by canoe
as it swims from the island to the mainland.
I'm good at cleaning fish: lake trout,
those beautiful deep swimmers, brown trout,
I can fillet them and take them to the cook
and the grateful fisherman may send a piece
back from his table to mine, a salute.
I clean in a swarm of yellow jackets,
sure they won't sting me, so they don't,
though they can't resist the fish, the slime,
the guts that drop into the bucket, they're mad
for meat, fresh death, they swarm around
whenever I work at this outdoor sink
with somebody's loving catch.
Later this summer we'll find their nest
and burn it one night with a blowtorch
applied to the entrance, the paper hotel
glowing with fire and smoke like a lantern,
full of the death-bees, hornets, whatever they are,
that drop like little coals
and an oily smoke that rolls through the trees
into the night of the last American summer
next to this one, 36 years away, to show me
time is a pomegranate, many-chambered,
nothing like what I thought.

--------

The end of this poem, in addition to choking me up in its own right, gave me an urge to read a poem that I think is by Tennessee Williams, with a first and last line along the lines of "my sister was quicker at everything than I," where the effects of love are compared to what happens to a tissue paper lantern. It might be the epigraph to A Streetcar Named Desire though I might be entirely muddled. At any rate, I can't find the damn thing no matter what permutations of "tissue paper lantern," "Tennessee Williams," "my sister was quicker at everything," etc. I plug into various search engines. Surely someone here knows the poem I mean?

Gacked from much of my Friends list, my rather tame rating. I think my utter lack of interest in drugs and violence brings my score down on such quizzes. But what's funny is that, in U.S. movies, drugs and violence don't get the rating to NC-17 anyway; only really vivid sex does that, and I'll take really vivid sex over drugs and violence any time.

My life has been rated:
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Suitable for 12 years or older, but under 18s must be with an adult. This is virtually identical to the 12 certificate, in that we'll have some adult-themed storylines, but no real meat or detail. No scary bits, but some language and maybe a bit of skin. Examples: Die Another Day, Lord Of The Rings.
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