The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Wednesday


Lessons of the War: Judging Distances
By Henry Reed


Not only how far away, but the way that you say it
Is very important. Perhaps you may never get
The knack of judging a distance, but at least you know
How to report on a landscape: the central sector,
The right of the arc and that, which we had last Tuesday,
          And at least you know

That maps are of time, not place, so far as the army
Happens to be concerned—the reason being,
Is one which need not delay us. Again, you know
There are three kinds of tree, three only, the fir and the poplar,
And those which have bushy tops to; and lastly
          That things only seem to be things.

A barn is not called a barn, to put it more plainly,
Or a field in the distance, where sheep may be safely grazing.
You must never be over-sure. You must say, when reporting:
At five o'clock in the central sector is a dozen
Of what appear to be animals; whatever you do,
          Don't call the bleeders sheep.

I am sure that's quite clear; and suppose, for the sake of example,
The one at the end, asleep, endeavors to tell us
What he sees over there to the west, and how far away,
After first having come to attention. There to the west,
Of the fields of summer the sun and the shadows bestow
          Vestments of purple and gold.

The white dwellings are like a mirage in the heat,
And under the swaying elms a man and a woman
Lie gently together. Which is, perhaps, only to say
That there is a row of houses to the left of the arc,
And that under some poplars a pair of what appear to be humans
          Appear to be loving.

Well that, for an answer, is what we rightly call
Moderately satisfactory only, the reason being,
Is that two things have been omitted, and those are very important.
The human beings, now: in what direction are they,
And how far away, would you say? And do not forget
          There may be dead ground in between.

There may be dead ground in between; and I may not have got
The knack of judging a distance; I will only venture
A guess that perhaps between me and the apparent lovers,
(Who, incidentally, appear by now to have finished,)
At seven o'clock from the houses, is roughly a distance
          Of about one year and a half.

--------

Sequel to part one yesterday, thanks again to muccamukk for leading me to this poet and this poem.

I had a relatively quiet day catching up on correspondence and chores, downloading and burning the new version of My Hand, My Heart on iTunes once I realized it was there (I only actually downloaded the two songs I didn't have and put the rest in the new play order), talking to my college roommate who has moved from Albany back to White Plains which means I will get to see her soon, writing a couple of Trek articles, driving kids to and from Hebrew school and waiting for apaulled to come home with Brokeback Mountain, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the last season of Dawson's Creek on DVD. Yes, there is probably something wrong with me when the first two complete series I bought on DVD were Space: 1999 and Dawson's Creek (ETA: And Sharpe, bought with money selling Voyager press kits!), but dollar for dollar they're a lot cheaper than the Star Trek shows (of which I own three seasons total plus some random episodes), The West Wing (of which I own one season) and Smallville (of which I own two seasons because they were under $20 each).

Hubby apparently had a liaison with vertigo66 at Best Buy -- a coincidence that they were shopping at the same time, they both claim (a likely story!). It was fortuitous for me, though, because he did not know that Best Buy was giving out copies of Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay with the DVD and she did! Besides, he joked that whatever macho image he might have wished to project was in peril while carrying Brokeback and Dawson to the register. I told him that, if questioned, he should have claimed to be a rabid Michelle Williams fan. So he came home with all this nice loot which is really for me and the kids, and all I had to offer him was new Russell Crowe...somehow I don't think he thinks he got the better part of the deal. *g*

Of course, I did not get to watch any of the new DVDs all the way through. When the kids got home from Hebrew school, after dinner and hubby's illicit brownie-making (this is why I have a hell of a time watching my weight, or at least mostly watching it go up), we put on Narnia for awhile. Younger son surprised me by getting very upset during the Blitz scenes -- he had seen the movie in the theater and hadn't been this upset by it. He was freaking out about which of his pets and stuffed animals he would have to leave behind if there was a war -- he had seen When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit in school, and that upset him -- we ended up having to fast-forward past the scene at the train station to the part where they arrive at the Professor's mansion. Then we watched through to Aslan announcing that the Witch had renounced her claim on Edmund, at which point we had to turn it off so younger son could practice the violin and older son could do the homework he had conveniently forgotten about while watching the movie.

Besides, by then the introductions were over and the Maryland-Duke game was about to start! WHOOOOOO! I am not a big follower of women's basketball but that was an incredible game -- Maryland was down by 13 at one point (I really wanted to shut the TV -- was convinced we were jinxing them, but hubby would not let me). They came back and tied it at the end of regulation and won in overtime after freshman Kristi Toliver -- who sank the three-pointer at the end of regulation -- put two free throws in the basket to put Maryland three points ahead, forcing Duke to try and miss from outside the line. (Everyone who cares about this already knows this, I am just putting it here so two years from now when I look back, I will remember her name!)


This is the statue of George Mason in the memorial garden near the Jefferson and Roosevelt Memorials in Washington, DC. The inscription on the bench reads, "All men are born equally free and independent and have certain inherent natural rights...among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." I like that they memorialized him with a book in his hand.


The front of George Mason's home, Gunston Hall, in Mason Neck, Virginia.


This is the view from the garden behind the house, where the Revolutionary War skirmish reenactment took place. The Potomac River and Maryland shore are visible beyond the woods.


The actors who play George Mason and his wife Ann Eilbeck Mason (with whom he had twelve children, nine of whom lived to adulthood) at the rear of the house before the start of the reenactment.
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GMU may not have won the men's basketball title, but I heard a great deal about George Mason last weekend, all of it good -- from the fact that he quarrelled with George Washington over the fact that he favored the abolition of slave trade ("that slow poison, which is daily contaminating the minds and morals of our people") to the fact that his draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights became the basis of the US Bill of Rights and he refused to sign the US Constitution because it did not contain those rights in the first place. He didn't get much attention in my required high school US history courses; I hope that has been remedied.
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