The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

By David Woo

Yellow-oatmeal flowers of the windmill palms
like brains lashed to fans-
even they think of cool paradise,

Not this sterile air-conditioned chill
or the Arizona hell in which they sway becomingly.
Every time I return to Phoenix I see these palms

as a child’s height marks on a kitchen wall,
taller now than the yuccas they were planted with,
taller than the Texas sage trimmed

to a perfect gray-green globe with pointillist
lavender blooms, taller than I,
who stopped growing years ago and commenced instead

my slow, almost imperceptible slouch
to my parents’ old age:
Father’s painful bend- really a bending of a bend-

to pick up the paper at the end of the sidewalk;
Mother, just released from Good Samaritan,
curled sideways on a sofa watching the soaps,

an unwanted tear inching down
at the plight of some hapless Hilary or Tiffany.
How she’d rail against television as a waste of time!

Now, with one arthritis-mangled hand,
she aims the remote control at the set
and flicks it off in triumph, turning to me

as I turn to the trees framed in the Arcadia door.
Her smile of affection melts into the back of my head,
a throb that presses me forward,

hand pressed to glass. I feel the desert heat
and see the beautiful shudders of the palms in the yard
and wonder why I despised this place so,

why I moved from city to temperate city, anywhere
without palms and cactus trees.
I found no paradise, as my parents know,

but neither did they, with their eager sprinklers
and scrawny desert plants pumped up to artificial splendor,
and their lives sighing away, exhaling slowly,

the man and woman
who teach me now as they could not before
to prefer real hell to any imaginary paradise.


Had an uneventful morning burning CDs and sorting paperwork followed by a crazy afternoon when younger son's braces wire came loose and jammed into his cheek, causing considerable pain and annoyance. As soon as I picked up older son, I took both kids to the orthodontist during the busiest after-school time of the afternoon to get this repaired, then took them out for ice cream, meaning homework and dinner were both delayed. I couldn't write up one of my TrekToday articles because the web link was broken, so instead I wrote a not-critical-news DS9 article, and as I finished that, someone sent in the final ratings for "These Are the Voyages..." (which UPN was spinning better than they deserved) so I had to go attend to those.

After this we were all sort of tired, and apaulled and I had been talking about how much the snow-in-the-woods scene in Kingdom of Heaven resembled the one in Gladiator, and the kids begged to be allowed to watch Gladiator which we have never let them do for several R-rated reasons although they have seen all the making-of documentaries (we all love Russell doing Animal Planet with the tigers), so I showed them Gladiator the way I showed them The Matrix - with liberal use of the fast-forward button for scenes of violence, incest and other material I didn't want to get into. I was actually surprised how much less violent it seemed than I remembered; too many CGI orc armies and Alexander on the big screen will do that, I suppose, but wow, first-hand proof that I myself have been desensitized to violence as all those psychiatrists predicted. I skipped less than I had assumed I would. Damn but sometimes I forget how much I love that film. Like Titanic, it was one I didn't see until literally everyone else on the planet had seen it because I was so sure it was overrated, and then when I saw it I loved it so much I thought I must have been shallow for having such mainstream tastes. *g*

Anyway, as a result of my running around before the day got crazy, I did manage to buy the Interview with Russell on the cover (so I was in the mood for Gladiator anyway, dammit), and I managed to mail three of the ten or so packages I owe people, so those of you in Europe will luck out compared to those of you in the US. Sorry! And now I am all sleepy. It's amazing what a bit of insanity can do.

In addition to the Asian Games exhibit at the Sackler Gallery on Sunday, we saw "Reflection" by Cai Guo-Qiang, a Chinese artist who created an "ocean" of porcelain shards and fragments from China upon which to display the hull of this century-plus fishing boat excavated off the coast of Japan.

I don't know the history well enough to comment on the apparent implications in terms of trade and imports and how they affected the histories and commerce of the countries involved, but there is a companion piece at the Hirshhorn Museum, jointly called "Traveler." The Washington Post had an article on its installation.

Many of the porcelain pieces are shattered sculptures of deities, though others seem to be plates and cups. Here are more images from the artist's own web site.

"Monkeys Grasping for the Moon" by Xu Bing. You've all seen some variety of the Barrel of Monkeys toy where you make chains of little monkeys holding hands to see how long you can get it? This one is made of pieces of wood, 21 in all, which each form the word "monkey" in a different language. They hang from the skylight down to the pool of water in the museum's lower level.

I only found this out at the museum, but apparently that game was inspired by "a Chinese folk tale in which a group of monkeys attempt to capture the moon. Linking arms and tails, they form a chain reaching down from the branch of a tree to the moon's shimmering reflection on the surface of a pool lying beneath them, only to discover the things we work hardest to achieve may prove to be nothing but an illusion." The quote is from the museum's web site.

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