The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

Hoodlum Birds
By Eugene Gloria

The fearless blackbirds see me again
at the footpath beside the tall grasses
sprouting like unruly morning hair.
They caw and caw like vulgar boys
on street corners making love to girls
with their "hey mama
this" and their "hey mama that."
But this gang of birds is much too slick.
They are my homeys of the air
with their mousse-backed hair and Crayola
black coats like small fry hoods who smoke
and joke about each other's mothers,
virginal sisters, and the sweet arc of revenge.
These birds spurn my uneaten celery sticks,
feckless gestures, ineffective hosannas.
They tag one another, shrill and terrible,
caroling each to each my weekly wages.
But they let me pass, then flit away.
They won't mess with me this time--
they know where I live.


From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, where Robert Pinsky writes that Gloria's new book Hoodlum Birds "demonstrates a central quality of poetry: depth of language, the power to get past the first surfaces of words and of things. Or to put it differently, the power to hear harmonies beyond the obvious ones, finding new undertones of meaning...Gloria's book brings the historical and the contemporary into fresh, vivid relation, so that the street and the museum are no longer sealed off neatly from one another. He finds the buried historical passions underlying a world of Cadillacs and fistfights."

Of this title poem, Pinsky notes, "the title brings the language of the first term, 'hoodlum,' together with the observed reality of the second term, 'birds'...'each to each' sounds both like Renaissance lyric poetry and the screech of the birds. I like the literary flamboyance of 'feckless gestures, ineffective hosannas' played against the vernacular flamboyance of 'small fry hoods who smoke/and joke.' And I like the way the merging of birds with gang boys finds its resolution in the last line, with 'where I live' implying that the poet is not completely unlike the bird-toughs...part of the street-threat but also a phrase that means 'what is important to me.'"

We had rain nearly all day, which meant that soccer was cancelled for younger son, and since it is spring break, older son did not have to work in my mother's Hebrew school class. So we did lots of movie-watching. In the morning I partook in my annual ritual for the week before Easter: watching Jesus Christ Superstar. My first two experiences of the Passion came from musicals -- JCS and Godspell -- so my perception of Jesus when I was growing up, from those shows and Elizabeth George Speare's The Bronze Bow, was that he was the perfect hippie and I mean that in the best possible sense: idealistic, questioning authority, deeply committed to people and social causes, refusing to be dragged into other people's battles, unconcerned about appearances and deeply in touch with his own and others' spirituality.

That's Jesus in JCS and also Judas in JCS; I didn't bother to link to all the Gospel of Judas articles this week since I'm not a Christian and the argument over where to place the Essenes and their writings in tradition isn't my own, but Lloyd Webber and Rice were all over that idea, anyway. I love how Norman Jewison directed the film with everyone getting off the bus and getting into character, Pilate taking off his sunglasses and putting on his robes and Judas already working himself into a froth, then everyone seeing the Jesus he or she wants to see (Simon the gospel revival preacher demanding revolution, the priests seeing the Temple fall if he doesn't shut up). And I love the disciples in the Last Supper pose at the last supper, and the montage of crucufixion paintings on the line "See how I die"...and everyone changed as they get back on the bus, and so many other things. Supposedly Ted Neely directed the sequence where Judas is running away from the tanks (tanks! and airplanes and all the things for sale in the Temple). Mel Gibson aside, I like Passion Plays that reflect the era of their production overtly as well as ideologically.

I got all the laundry sorted and folded while watching that, and then after lunch it was still raining, so we took the kids to see Ice Age: The Meltdown, which I actually think I liked better than the first, though I have not watched the original in several years so I may be misremembering. I have nothing profound to say about it -- it reminded me of the Land Before Time movie where the climate changed and the dinosaurs had to leave the Great Valley, only the characters in Ice Age have much less annoying voices and sing much funnier songs, plus there is a Sabertooth Squirrel and Queen Latifah as a mammoth who thinks she's a possum, and what more does a movie need? We all enjoyed it, especially the "Food, Glorious Food" parody performed by the buzzards (though the kids did not know the song from Oliver).

It was still raining when we left, but by dinnertime the clouds had broken a little and just after sunset, this was the view through the damp flowers toward the cul-de-sac.

One of my cousins (young actress, NYU Tisch graduate) is in a local pro dinner theater production of Beauty and the Beast so we are spending most of Palm Sunday there...brunch buffet opens at 10, the show's at noon, the theater's outside Baltimore so it'll be a long drive there and back. We realized talking to the kids about Ice Age that neither of them remembered the Disney movie, so that was our evening entertainment. Both boys resisted it on the grounds that it was a baby movie (that it was a girl movie was not quite said aloud but definitely in the subtext), and then they sat and watched and were totally entertained.

I was the one rolling my eyes about everything I really despise about the Disney version of that story...given a choice between the Beast and Gaston, I'd have entered a convent! Yes, ladies, you too can turn a beast into marriageable material so long as he has a library and you take responsibility for his temper. It left a bad enough taste in my mouth that I had to put on the "Be A Man" scene from Mulan afterward -- my favorite Disney moment in my favorite Disney film. I've been told the stage musical of B&TB is better than the film so I shall look forward to that...I do like the music, but I need to go reread my U of Chicago prof Richard Strier's lecture notes on how Shakespeare portrays disobedient servants in a far more favorable light than Disney, where everyone is supposed to be a happy helpful teapot.

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