Van Gogh in Montana
By Dennis Held
He polkas a two-step flop out the boxcar door
of the four o'clock freight from Butte
and Bill, the yard bull, says watch your step
so he does, all the way into town, careful
to tramp down the puddle ice that barks
like a circus seal. Across one rail, eyes
wide open, an orange and black tabby
sliced in two, still surprised at the light.
But Vince knows he can't save anybody,
least of all himself. Hell's already too full
of heroes. There's one now: a doughboy
who's only lobbing a snowball, not
a grenade, stranded on a pedestal before
the county courthouse that rings four-thirty.
Smudges of woodsmoke usher in the dusk.
He pulls down his watchcap over an ear
and sets out west for color, where two yellow
hills succumb to the slow-moving ploy
of a deeper huckleberry light, where
outside of town a long field of solemn
grain stacks drift off, set loose
like cattle seen running in fever dreams.
If he's not careful, he'll be gone as soon
as the sun, and the moon's already up,
betting on the night.
Finally, for winter's sake, he had come
to trust the undiluted cold, to absorb the many
intricate and particular pains of gray ice,
but now this changling wind---"chinook"---
that strips the hides from snowbanks and sends
the pale light everywhere shimmering.
Tough-minded song sparrows gloat
in vaporous trills above stray hounds that run
the tracksides, growl and tussle over
bones and gristle of doe and fawn.
Vince shivers, works a trick of light to help
shuck off the regular tug toward the sure,
laborious weight of loss that courses
through the damp air that is just now dense
with the unqualified love of decay.
Someone will name a child for him today.
He scrabbles along a scalloped jawbone
of ice that juts deep into the clotted river.
He follows. Back toward town, the grain
elevator's gunmetal blue rhymes with the sky.
Even the church steeple is pointless, domed
as any bullet: Fog brings down the cross.
A packet of geese cobbles over, pushing a klaxon
lament as they head for the mountains that break
in whitecaps, churlish waves braiding away
to the scar of horizon, the only seam, only border
of this tossed-off land. The pigeons assemble
for stray chaff, and night sets up its final picnic:
tablecloth of stars, one bright tea cup.
Most the excitement of my day surrounded having to take my son to the orthodontist, and some of it will probably cost me people's respect as it was of a pathetic commercial nature so you might not want to read this. *g* In between writing a pile of articles (Enterprise to leave UPN this weekend, will be gone till fall syndication; Mission: Impossible 3 to film on Star Trek's soundstages, hearkening back to the days when the two original series filmed side by side; JMS still thinks he should run Trek despite mounting evidence of his mediocrity) and making some new icons because really why not (and there cannot be too many Jason Isaacs icons in the world), I took younger son to the dental office in the mall I wasn't in yesterday, where there is another Bath & Body Works, and they had one single bottle of Toasted Hazelnut body splash, which made me very happy! Also Borders conveniently had sent me a coupon for 50% off the illustrated edition of Angels and Demons, and you can tell me how much you think I suck for reading Dan Brown; I will only say in my defense that I read that book in cheapo paperback before the craze, and I wanted the illustrations of all the places he describes in Italy -- the illustrated Da Vinci Code was a must-own for a lifelong Arthurian/Magdalen obsessive like me even if the entire book was swiped from Baigent and Leigh -- so I make no apologies. And apaulled came home with the Spamalot cast recording, thus blowing one of my Father's Day gift ideas, but I get to borrow it without guilt now.
And since we were in a mall, I was ordered to go to Burger King to get, not food, but Star Wars toys (younger son wanted General Grievous and that dinosaur thing Obi-Wan rode, and decided older son would want Boba Fett and Obi-Wan himself, plus we got a C3PO just in case he guessed wrong). My mother had met us at the orthodontist's office since she was planning to be in the mall as well and she took son with newly tightened braces out for ice cream. Then we came home, retrieved older son from his chorus rehearsal, had dinner and watched "The Naked Time" as a family, since I have to review it Friday and won't be home for nearly all of Thursday (it's my in-laws' anniversary; they were originally going to come down to see the chorus recital, but as it turns out they have unexpected out of town company, so my parents are going with us instead and it's going to be a long evening, as we will all be taking younger son to violin together, then eating in the van while driving to the school and not getting home till quite late, so forgive me for getting behind!) I always think of "The Naked Time" as one of the sillier episodes, between Christine declaring her love for Spock and Kirk's near-hysteria, and was struck by how good it is, nearly 40 years later. My kids watched more attentively than they've watched Enterprise for two years. I was afraid reviewing the original series would kill my love for it but in fact it's making me notice all sorts of details about just why that show is so exceptional.
So I broke down and watched my ex-imaginary-boyfriend on both Ellen Degeneres and David Letterman. The former was evidently filmed before The Incident (though he was wearing the same jacket and same growth of beard as in the police photos) as his son was in his dressing room trying Ellen's gift-bag boxers on his head; Ellen was gushy and they talked mostly about kids, how great CM is and other stuff Russell has gone on about before. Dave, however, was really great. Apparently it was as hot in New York today as it was here (96 degrees in my suburb), and Dave got himself a Slurpee from Rupert downstairs and said maybe he should get Rupert to make one for Russell to cool him down *ka-ching*, then when Russell came out Dave made a point of pushing a vodka-laced Slurpee toward him and then taking and hiding the phone, which led Russell to laugh that Dave doesn't usually do sight gags so he was flattered.
Then they had quite a long discussion about The Incident, with Russell giving the abject apology that his bitch publicist should have offered in the first place, and Dave talking about how now they both have kids and he wonders what Russell's going to do to control his temper -- at one point he was explaining that he has double-eraser pencils because he throws pencils and he used to hit people with the points and Russell begged to be allowed to talk about the movie. *g* I wonder how much pre-show layout they did together, because I was impressed at how much Russell let Dave get away with pressing him to talk about how he felt about possibly going to jail and things like that. Maybe it's all performance but Russell is like the anti-Tom Cruise: everything he says seems completely sincere, whether it's stupid and nasty or apologetic or paranoid or ebullient. He also always sounds smart -- he knows far more US history than I know Australian history and I've studied enough Australian literature that this should not be so. The show was also entertaining because the Top 10 list was how Bush could regain his popularity rating (#2. Resign. #1. Throw self on Oprah's couch and declare love for Katie Holmes.) and Paul Anka was on with his big band, performing..."Smells Like Teen Spirit"!
Leaves pressed against the outer canvas of one of the Washington Folk Festival tents, seen from inside.