By Stephen Dunn
These days only he could see the rock,
so when he stopped for a bagel
at the bagel store, then for a newspaper
at one of those coin-operated stalls,
he looked like anyone else
on his way to work. Food --
the gods reasoned --
would keep him alive
to suffer, and news of the world
could only make him feel worse.
Let him think he has choices;
he belongs to us.
Rote not ritual, a repetition
which never would mean more
at the end than at the start...
Sisyphus pushed his rock
past the aromas of bright flowers,
through the bustling streets
into the plentitude and vacuity,
every arrival the beginning
of a familiar descent. And sleep
was the cruelest repite;
at some murky bottom of himself
the usual muck rising up.
One morning, however, legs hurting,
the sun beating down,
again weighing the quick calm of suicide
against this punishment that passed for life,
It was the way a gambler smiles
when he finaly decides to fold
in order to stay alive
for another game, a smile
so inward it cannot be seen.
The gods sank back
in their airy chairs. Sisyphus sensed
he'd taken something from them,
more on his own than ever now.
Another of Dunn's Sisyphus poems, since so many people seemed to like the one from yesterday, which is the end of the cycle. There are five in Local Visitations; here is an essay about them from Blackbird.
Okay, I am just going to admit that I have had a Day of Squee. We're all entitled to those once in awhile, right? (Well, yeah, I sort of had a Day of Squee on Monday, too, but I did get my work and most of my chores done both days so I refuse to feel guilty.) First, in and around laundries and chores, I watched An Awfully Big Adventure. I knew from various comments that it was not the romantic comedy which for some unfathomable reason its marketing pretends it is, but what actually happened was nothing I expected and for once I am glad I wasn't spoiled -- the visceral shock value was fantastic. (perkypaduan and gblvr, don't read any further as you need to come over so we can all watch this. *g*)
I had read comments that the ending was sad, and I suspected from the Peter Pan reference in the title that someone would die even though the play Peter Pan is actually performed within the movie; the full line to which the title refers is "To die will be an awfully big adventure," and at one point when the girl had a cough I was sure she was going to drop dead of consumption, just like Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies. But no: she's living with her aunt and uncle because her unwed mother has abandoned the family, and she falls in love with Hugh Grant's character who's a total skank and mostly gay, and meanwhile she lets Alan Rickman's character have her virginity because she likes him better than the other offers she's had and wants to make sure she won't scream or run away if she ever gets Hugh to take her to bed, and Alan is rather infatuated with her because she reminds him of the local woman he knocked up and abandoned nearly two decades ago but now he's back and searching for his child which he mistakenly believes to be a boy...
It was very obvious where this was going, and to my great shame, instead of squicking, I found the sex scenes staggeringly hot. (Okay, given my fetish for The Grifters and The Miracle this should not surprise me, but I usually have a double standard when the man's the older one.) The first time they do it -- and oh dear, I could watch Alan thrust all day, and the director very kindly films his face from the girl's perspective -- she thinks he's groaning her name, but he says the wrong last name and he later admits he's actually calling out the stage name of an old love who of course turns out to be her mother. I think the saving grace for me is that she never finds out the truth; he's the one who gets the awfully big adventure in the J.M. Barrie sense, once he realizes what he's done, because while she's off being miserable that Hugh will never love her, Alan tries to visit her and sees her aunt and uncle's photos of her mother. It seems like someone always pays for incest or even incestuous thoughts with death, whether it's Hamlet or Oedipus or Obsession (another totally guilty pleasure where half the fun is realizing the perversity before the main characters do), but in this film it's a real bummer...these characters have no emotional strings other than the biological and I was sort of hoping Alan's character was unscrupulous enough to shrug and cope with it.
I must remember to have totally self-indulgent Rickman weeks more often. So who's got a copy of Judas Kiss I can borrow? And since everyone can guess that it will hit my forbidden kink buttons, I might as well ask if it's worth getting Close My Eyes on DVD?
Anyway, after I got my kids from school and got kid #1 to Hebrew school and wrote my articles on the latest Armin Shimerman interview and Enterprise coming out on DVD on Tuesday, I e-mailed my husband to ask him if we was picking up son #1 on his way home and if perchance he remembered that The Phantom of the Opera was coming out on DVD Tuesday too. Not only did he bring home the two-disc set, he also got National Treasure and one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Dawson's Creek (the complete fifth season came out Tuesday and at a third of the price of Enterprise for far more episodes that I enjoyed, it was a no-brainer where to spend the money). I watched most of the history of the Phantom feature on the second disc in a state of total bliss, partly because there was so much footage of Crawford, Brightman and the cast I saw on Broadway, partly because there was footage of the production we just saw in London, but mostly because there was footage of Colm Wilkinson, my all-time favorite Phantom whom we saw onstage in Toronto, performing in the very first staging of the musical at Lloyd-Webber's home in Sydmonton before anyone ever imagined casting Crawford.
Now, I have fantasized about seeing Sydmonton for years -- Lloyd-Webber has amassed a collection of my favorite John William Waterhouse paintings there, including St. Cecilia. The costumes in that first staged run-through are a nightmare and the lyrics are entirely different -- they're Richard Stilgoe's, from before Lloyd-Webber and Harold Prince had brought in Charles Hart -- but it's such a thrill for me to hear Wilkinson, whom I have adored since the original British recording of Evita and later War of the Worlds and Les Miserables, singing the music with Sarah Brightman. And it was really fun for me to see clips of Crawford in Barnum, because the context in which I first heard of him was in the title role in London where Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean saw him and decided to choreograph a routine around the show's music...he's all over the first professional T&D videotape I owned, which I watched daily for about eight months. He comes across in these old tapes as a totally unpretentious stage actor, not the superstar he turned into after Phantom made him famous.
Everyone is also very gracious about everyone else -- the British rocker who had the role before Crawford spends most of his time discussing his rabid crush on Hal Prince whom he says changed his life, and no one has anything bad to say about Sarah Brightman despite the divorce. I think everyone here knows that while I don't think the movie is the musical -- there are things that happen between actors, musicians and audiences in live theater that are just impossible with film -- I agree with Schumacher that the story works better if Christine is very young and genuinely innocent, not an older ingenue; much as I adore Brightman, she was only barely young enough to get away with the role when she came to the US to do it in 1988, and a 60ish Crawford wooing any youthful Christine onscreen would have been genuinely disturbing to me. I have three different Phantoms existing in my head simultaneously -- Crawford's, Wilkinson's and Butler's -- and I like different things about all of them, and it's neat to have this package where they all co-exist.
I am sure that I would have squee about the National Treasure extras if I had seen them but I haven't even glanced at the DVDs -- we got ours at Best Buy because they were giving out bonus discs with more featurettes -- and I haven't made it all the way through Dawson's fourth season because I keep having other things to watch while folding laundry and sorting kids' papers like I did today. But I am a very happy fangirl right now. Tomorrow younger son has an orthodontist appointment so there will be much running-around after school and not as much self-indulgent delight, I'm afraid!