By Tess Gallagher
The Romanian poets
under Ceausescu, Liliana
said, would codify opposition
to the despots in this manner: because
there was no gas and they were cold, everyone
was cold, all they had to do was write
how cold it is . . . so cold . . . and their
readers knew exactly what was meant.
No one had to go to jail
Liliana, in the dead of night
writing her poems
with gloves on.
I think I'll take off my gloves.
It's freezing in here.
There's a glacier pressing on my heart.
"Here is a poem from Tess Gallagher's rich, striking, new collection Dear Ghosts,," writes Robert Pinsky in Poet's Choice in today's Washington Post Book World. He wonders if "the myth of apolitical American writing is part of the Cold War heritage." Of Gallagher's new book, he observes, "The comma in her title emphasizes how elegiac the book is, addressed to ghosts of various kinds and degrees of intimacy. The figure of the Eastern European writer resisting and surviving under the old communist empire is a kind of ghost: still haunting and urgent or emblematic for the West. Like traditional ghost stories, maybe this persistent specter of Soviet oppression expresses semi-conscious fears about our own proclivities...the half-legendary life of poetry in the Soviet years gives Gallagher a way to convey her political meaning in her poem."
Obviously I was too tired early Saturday morning to post except in the most superficial manner. *g* A more complete description of my Friday: After getting younger son to school, I went to get ribby and her hubby in Takoma Park, which took somewhat longer than expected due to unexpected lane closings. We stopped to buy bottled water and went to Great Falls, which was gorgeous as always though overrun by buses of students on field trips...it took us awhile to get out to the island as we were avoiding being stampeded by hundreds of elementary school students. But once we finally got out there, we had the overlook pretty much all to ourselves. There were herons fishing in the river, which was very high because of the rain we had last week, and a big snake and salamanders in the bedrock terrace forest, likely also pleased about the rain. (And there were the usual geese and turtles in the canal.) They suggested that on a future trip to England we should travel on a canal boat which sounds like a great idea to me.
We had Middle Eastern food for lunch because good hummus is always a good thing, then came back here where I gave them the grand tour (such as it is -- they were polite about the mess in the basement and did not laugh too hard about apaulled's CD collection), watched The Sentinel blooper reel which ann_tara sent me once upon a time (and for which we all heartily thank her, again), and waited for my family to get home so we could go downtown. We had fairly good Thai food -- the salmon and panang were good, at least -- near the Tower Records at GWU and walked to Lisner, which had a packed-to-the-gills crowd. I know I said I'd try to name the set list but I can't remember! They did "Donkey Riding" very early on which made my kids very happy as it's their favorite GBS song (well, besides "Recruiting Sergeant" which is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head, but they didn't do that one). I know they did (in no particular order here) "The Mermaid" (which my kids loved as they had not seemed to pick up on what a dirty song it was before), "Graceful & Charming" (the forget-me-not song), "Ordinary Day", "Sea of No Cares" (the number one song in Canada once for seven hours), "General Taylor", "The River Driver", "Captain Kidd", "The Night Pat Murphy Died", "Old Polina" (with which they closed the first set), "Old Brown's Daughter" (a cappella, the second encore), "When I'm Up", "Scolding Wife", "Come and I Will Sing You"...I can't even remember what else. Most of my favorites. They promised at one point to play till next Wednesday, as they were doing long intros to some of the songs, probably because they were filming (I hope that's for public television or something!)
Saturday was a much more difficult day. Thanks everyone for the condolences. Younger son discovered when he woke up in the morning that the gerbil was not breathing. Son was lying on the floor curled up in his afghan when we got downstairs, but only had one crying fit and during the gerbil funeral both kids were more focused on doing it exactly the same way we did the last one (same brand of tea whose box we buried the gerbil in, even). We had to dig up a small tulip tree that was growing too close to the wall, in part so we could put the gerbils next to each other and in part because those trees grow roots that wreak havoc on brick, so just after burying Boromir we took the tree into the woods in the common area behind the houses to replant it. Boromir had seemed pretty geriatric even before Aragorn died...he was the one we had briefly discussed taking to the vet a month and a half ago, in fact, since Aragorn was quite active until the very end while Boromir's nest-building output had been reduced of late.
The kids seemed more easily distracted than after Aragorn died. Younger son had a soccer game in the middle of the day, so although we had wanted to go to Maryland Day at the University of Maryland and see all the science demonstrations like we usually do, there was really no way to get to the ones we wanted around the sports schedule. So we all went to soccer including my father (they lost 2-0 and were dispirited), then we went to Target to buy shorts for older son who had outgrown all of his over the winter. And since we were near the lake with the geese and it was an utterly gorgeous 65-degree day, we took a walk around it and saw waterfowl and paddleboaters and a wedding. When we had cleaned the kitchen counter while cleaning up after the gerbil, we found a big plastic cup full of quarters that we had forgotten all about, and when we put it with the rest of the loose change in various containers in the kitchen it ended up being a decent amount of money, so we let the kids get some Shadow the Hedgehog video game with which they distracted themselves in the afternoon while I wrote two quick articles (Patrick Stewart getting rave reviews in Antony and Cleopatra, Richard Herd griping about various aspects of the motion picture industry). We were supposed to go out to dinner with my parents, but my father had a tantrum over something trivial, so we went only with my mother who took us out for very good Greek food.
In the evening, I put on Brideshead Revisited, which I saw most of at some point in my distant youth but my uncle has been telling me that I really must watch, and I discovered that I remembered almost none of it...or actually, what I did remember I was mixing up with Maurice because they're practically the same gay university story except Charles and Sebastian are supposed to be heterosexual, I think, which is very, very hard to tell given all of Charles' musings about how he was ready for love and they spent many hours in debauchery and I can't even remember all the other lines where either apaulled or I shrieked -- he started chuckling when Charles said he could never give up his rooms because he liked to look out the window at the flowers and basically never stopped. But having been to both Oxford and Castle Howard, what an absolute delight to watch! And there are like ten more hours of it! I hope I continue to enjoy it this much because the war story didn't grab me until the flashbacks started.
We also watched Saturday Night Live, the animated edition, which was worth it just for the Song of the South clip and stills from the original uncut Fantasia, the Osama-and-Saddam utter political incorrectness and Jesus Christ doing the Charlie Brown dance after zapping various televangelists. (I am sorry to report that despite numerous cracks at Jews, Muslims and Christians, there was not nearly the skewering of Scientologists for which I had hoped.) The other entertainment news that alternately makes me laugh, cry and scream is the report, originally from Variety (which apparently screwed up the Star Trek news enough that who knows if they should be trusted) that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt may star in Atlas Shrugged. I don't know whether to ...well, laugh, cry or scream.
A great blue heron about to fish in the Potomac River.
A Canadian goose swims beside the biggest koi I have ever seen.
My son pointed out that this is likely one of the apparently mixed-breed goslings from last spring (and one of the good geese).
I still want to write something about Doctor Who but it is very late and we are going Sunday to Baltimore for the Volvo Ocean Race ships' visit to the Inner Harbor for the Baltimore Waterfront Festival -- and we also want to see the Wright Brothers exhibit before it leaves the Maryland Science Center. So it must wait till late tomorrow I suspect.