The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

Describe Yourself in Three Words or Less
By Rita Dove

I'm not the kind of person who praises
openly, or for profit; I'm not the kind
who will steal a scene unless
I've designed it. I'm not a kind at all,
in fact: I'm itchy and pug-willed,
gnarled and wrong-headed,
never amorous but possessing
a wild, thatched soul.

Each night I set my boats to sea
and leave them to their bawdy business.
Whether they drift off
maddened, moon-rinsed,
or dock in the morning
scuffed and chastened --
is simply how it is, and I gather them in.

You are mine , I say to the twice-dunked cruller
before I eat it. Then I sing
to the bright-beaked bird outside,
then to the manicured spider
between window and screen;
then I will stop, and forget the singing.
(See? I have already forgotten you.)


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, on the most recent book by Dove, who wrote the column several years before Pinsky. Dove's American Smooth "takes its title from a style of ballroom dancing where the partners are free to release each other from time to time and improvise," he notes. "Often these poems cunningly involve a different kind of freedom to separate, while remaining together, and a different kind of couple: poet and reader." Of the poem above, he asks, "To whom do you suppose the semi-ironic last line is addressed? To you (and me). The characteristic gesture of this book is a smooth meditation on bodily experience: thinking about the senses and their world, with the intellectual effort flowing rather than labored."

Though gas prices are approaching $3.50 a gallon, we decided we did need our weekend away and drove to my in-laws in Hanover via Baltimore, where this is the last weekend for the Parakeet Landing at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. This is a large open-air aviary containing hundreds of parakeets, cockatiels, rosellas and zebra finches which visitors can feed and hold -- something we could not resist, as we used to have parakeets in our pre-cat days and have missed being nibbled by little beaks. The parakeets outnumbered the other birds in both number and attention to humans; most of the cockatiels perched on support struts near the ceiling, while the rosellas preferred to stretch their beaks and snatch seeds rather than land on anyone's shoulders or arms, and the finches mostly stayed hidden in the plants, darting out to pick up fallen seeds and going back into hiding. Here are some photos:

Parakeets would land on arms, clothing and hair to try to get at the seed sticks carried by zoo patrons, but they seemed perfectly content to nibble non-edibles as well.

The rosellas weren't so sure about sharing space with parakeets and humans...

...but they took seeds when offered, though they didn't land on people, which is probably just as well since some of the kids seemed afraid of the flying birds.

The cockatiels were more wary, climbing down to snitch a bite and then flying up to the metal support beams.

The zebra finches mostly stayed up and out of the way, appearing to pick up dropped seeds from other birds.

Another watch! Shiny! And arm hair! Yum!

Apparently eyeglasses look like food sticks or are also shiny enough to be irresistible.

We also went through the Africa section of the zoo, where we saw lions, chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, zebras, cranes, tortoises, vultures, cheetahs, warthogs, lemurs, penguins and many other animals, plus the Maryland section of the zoo where we saw otters, turtles, herons, copperheads, bats, owls and other animals that live in and around the Chesapeake Bay, and the Polar Bear Station where we saw the titular sleepy bear plus snowy foxes (the snowy owl was in hiding from the afternoon sun). The zoo is in the process of remodeling, having taken out all the old cramped cages from what used to be the entrance walk, so at the moment there are no prairie dogs, foxes, flamingoes or any of the other animals that used to live in those old structures.

From Baltimore (where there was more traffic than usual due to the Maryland-Navy game being at the Ravens' stadium) we drove to Hanover, where we had barbecue, watched the Red Sox and hung out with my in-laws. I have not seen any groundhogs yet but I did see a rabbit, so I am hopeful that perhaps Maximus will put in an appearance at some point! We also saw a rainbow in the clouds as we arrived despite the fact that there was not a trace of rain. With luck we will spend Sunday at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Festival.

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