Ambassadors to the Dead
By Martha Rhodes
They're pleased we've come.
Sweets? they offer,
trays of earthened fingers, syrupy.
Join us for a walk. Do.
We've traveled so far already
and what was familiar a moment before --
We've come to ask about our mother.
We know she'd like to see us. She visited our friend Maria
but not us. We don't understand why. We want to know where
you keep her. We've brought these things for her.
A leaf from her maple tree. Her cranberry cashmere sweater.
We demand to see our mother.
We want this second to talk to our mother.
We accepted no more food, declined their walk.
and the ornaments they offered to hang around our necks --
little skulls they looked like little female skulls.
(They're giving us little heads to wear.)
From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "Look around the airplane or the bus and what are people reading? Maybe the newspaper with its chronicle of death by war, fatal accident, natural disaster or crime," he writes. "Death: The subject, apparently, is endlessly thrilling. The newspaper, the mystery novel and the thriller all offer the comfort of something predictable in form: the deaths they describe may differ interestingly in detail, but the tone and structure are reassuringly repetitious." Poetry, he says, instead aims for the unexpected and memorable, like Emily Dickinson:
The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth --
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity --
"So a poem about death might treat it in a way that combines the bizarre and the banal...blending the matter-of-fact with the surreal, as a way of comprehending the stunning, final reality.
ETA, because it's timely: Frank Rich in today's New York Times on the culture of death from Terry Schiavo to the Pope to CSI to Left Behind.
Soccer went longer than we expected so we decided to put off seeing the cherry blossoms until Sunday (when hopefully the crowds will be smaller as well, as the Cherry Blossom Festival parade was Saturday). My son's team won their first soccer game of the year, so they ended the afternoon on a happy note, after which we drove to Seneca Creek State Park which is near the school where they were playing and hiked in the surprisingly damp and muddy woods. It has been gorgeous here, 70s and sunny, but I hear that the DC area got a lot of rain while we were in England and the creek gave evidence of that.
Otherwise, I transcribed an Enterprise trailer, updated my Louise Fletcher web page as the publicist for her movie Aurora Borealis had sent me some information and links to photos, resized a great many photos and worked on the web pages about our trip. Watched the first episode of The Barchester Chronicles while folding laundry this evening; no Alan Rickman yet, but the series is quite engrossing, particularly since I am nostalgic for all things in England at the moment. And the Nationals won again, so it must be considered a successful day. I didn't see the wedding at all but I hear Camilla wore a terrible hat; if so, will someone post a photo to fanfic_hats, pretty please? *g*
Today's poem seemed to call for a graveyard, so here is the one at the priory church in front of the keep of Portchester Castle.