The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Saturday

A View of the Sea
By J. D. McClatchy

The argument had smouldered for a week,
Long enough for the fine points of fire,
Banked from the start against self-righteousness,
To have blurred in the pale ash of recrimination.
I couldn't tell which wound would be the deeper —
To stay on, behind the slammed door,
Forcing you to listen to me talk about it
With others, or to leave you altogether.
What caused the argument — another crumpled
Piece of paper with a phone number on it —
Felt at last as lost as all the bright
Beginnings, years back. And then...
                                                        And then
You were standing at the sink with your back to me
And must have sensed me there behind you, watching.
Suddenly you turned around and I saw in your eyes
What all along had been the reason I loved you
And had come to this moment when I would be forced
To choose but could not because of what I had seen,
As when the master of the tea ceremony,
Determined to embody his ideal,
Had constructed a room of such simplicity
That only a decade of deliberating its angles
And details was in the end required of him,
A wooden floor so delicately joined
That birds still seemed to sing in its branches,
Three salmon-dyed silken cushions
On which the painted quince petals trembled,
A pilled iron kettle disguised as a sea urchin,
Each cup the echo of cloud on wave,
And on the long low wall, a swirling mural
Of war lords and misty philosophers,
The Ten Most Famous Men in the World,
Floating at its center the gold-leafed emperor . . .
Who, rumors having reached the court,
Was invited to come approve the great design,
But when he saw himself as merely one
Of ten, declared that because the master's
Insult was exceeded only by his skill
He would be allowed to take his own life
And have a month to plan the suicide.
The master bowed, the emperor withdrew.
At the month's end, two aged monks
Received the same letter from their old friend,
The master, who had now built his final teahouse —
An improvisation, a thing of boards and cloth
On the mountain in the province of their childhood —
Inviting them for one last cup together.
The monks too wanted nothing more,
The sadness of losing their friend to his ancestors
Eased by the ordinariness of his request.
But they were feeble and could not make the climb.
Again the master wrote, begging them
To visit — he was determined to die the very day
They came and in their company, and besides,
He reminded them, from the mountain they would have
A view of the sea, its round immensity
The soul's own, they could never elsewhere command.
The two monks paused. Their duty to a friend
Was one thing, but to have at last a view of the sea,
A wish since each had been a boy bent
Over pictures of its moonswept midnight blue . . . .
So they agreed and undertook the difficult journey,
Sheer rock, sharp sun, shallow breaths until
They reached the top. The master was waiting for them,
The idea of leaving life already in his looks,
A resignation half solemn, half smiling.
He led them past a sapling plum he noted
Would lean in the wind a hundred years hence.
A small ridge still blocked the sea, but the master
Reassured them it would be theirs, a memory
To return with like no other, and soon, soon.
They came to his simple house, a single room,
But surrounded by stunted pines and thick hedges
They could not see beyond. Patience was urged.
Inside, they were welcomed with the usual silences,
With traditional bows and ritual embraces.
At the far end of the room, the two cups of water
On the floor, the master explained, were for them
To purify their mouths with before the tea was served.
They were next told to lie on their bellies and inch
Towards the cups, ensuring a proper humiliation.
The monks protested — they had come to see their friend
Through to the end, to see his soul released,
Poured like water into water — and where, after all,
Was the unmatched view he had promised them?
They would, he countered, all have what they wished
If they yielded as they must to this ceremony.
The master waited. The monks slowly, painfully
Got to their knees, then to the straw mat,
Their arms outspread as they had been instructed,
And like crippled beggars made their way across
The floor, their eyes closed in shame, until
They reached the cups. With their lips they tipped
The rims back so the water ran over their tongues.
Now, the master whispered, now look up.
They opened their eyes. They raised their heads a little.
And when they did, they saw a small oblong
Cut into the wall, and beyond that another
Cut through the hedge, and beyond that was what
They had waited for all their lives, a sight
So sublimely composed — three distant islands
Darkly shimmering on boundlessness —
That in the end they saw themselves there,
In their discomfort, in a small opening,
In a long-planned accidental moment,
In their rapture and their loss, in a view of the sea.


Had a quiet morning writing a review of "Patterns of Force", which I had thought of as a middling to decent episode but which really did not hold up under scrutiny; there are some marvelous slashy moments between Kirk and Spock particularly in prison that makes watching worthwhile, but the Nazi storyline struck me as really stupid, even worse than Enterprise's much-derided "Storm Front" (at least it wasn't a human teacher who recreated fascism on another planet there!) Also wrote the site columns and caught up on some correspondence. The instant I got my kids home, they wanted to sign up to become members at Club Penguin so they could get some special item or other, and after much telephone negotiation with their father, I had to convince PayPal that yes, I really wanted to pay the same site twice for two different accounts.

fridayfiver: iKnow
What songs would you play to match these situations?
1. At a sporting event:
"Centerfield" if it's baseball, "We Are the Champions" if it's basketball and "I'm Goin' Down" if it's football.
2. At a party/social event: Any and all disco. Disco can break any ice.
3. Utterly depressed: Sarah McLachlan if I want to mope, Madonna if I want to get over myself.
4. Driving in a car: Classic rock or '80s depending on whether it's traffic or moving.
5. Feeling lustful: Something without lyrics with a real thrumming beat.

thefridayfive: Rain
1. What type of mood are you generally in on a rainy day?
Depends on whether it's the first in three weeks or the third in a row. I love right when it starts thunderstorming but many solid gray soaked days depress me.
2. What are your favorite things to do when the weather is gloomy? Watch movies, read by candlelight, make out in front of the fireplace.
3. Have you ever been kissed in the rain? Yes.
4. After the rain stops, do you continue what you were doing, or do you run outside to do something else? Depends on what I was doing and how much I was enjoying it. Often I'm outside in the rain anyway, like last weekend in the gardens.
5. What is your favorite drink/food to have when it's raining outside? Hot chocolate if it's cold, chocolate milk if it's hot, chocolate bars if there's one available.

In the evening I got to meet rinsbane! Whom I may have scared away with the aforementioned children who were even louder than usual and with my ship geekery, since we went to the Inner Harbor for dinner, having forgotten that Baltimore would be hopping with people in town for the Preakness this weekend. (At least the Orioles were in DC for the Beltway series against the Nationals!) The USS Constellation was having its annual fundraising bash and had a live band that could be heard around the harbor, where there was a clown doing tricks and a bunch of people from Energizer (which must be sponsoring the race) giving out foam bunny ears -- I wish I'd taken a picture of all the people walking around with rabbit ears on! There was a huge inflatable Energizer Bunny, too, in front of the hot air balloons which I assume are going to the race. We had dinner at Capitol City Brewing Company, which continues to have very good, not terribly expensive salmon, and walked around looking at the dinner cruise ships and ducks in the harbor.

Hot air balloons being prepared for the Preakness Stakes celebration.

The USS Constellation and Pride of Baltimore II with the festival tent on the dock between them.

The Black-Eyed Susan, a 150-passenger riverboat that usually docks in Fells Point but was visiting the harbor by the Maryland Science Center, where the balloons were being set up.

The Giant Energizer Bunny of Doom!

Blurry photo due to it being twilight and me lacking a tripod, but I just love that tuxedo balloon!

And home before midnight for Doctor Who! I was not happy to see the Slitheen back, as I found "Aliens of London" and "World War Three" passably amusing but nowhere near as great as "Dalek," "Father's Day," "The Doctor Dances," etc. I was very pleasantly surprised. It starts amusingly enough with Jack and Mickey trying to figure out who's what -- Mickey says it's not so bad having Rose hang out with the guy with the big ears, but he's not sure about Jack -- and after ascertaining that the Doctor, Jack and Rose all think they're very clever, he asks the Doctor (who still calls him Ricky) why he doesn't think the police box is suspicious since no one uses them anymore, which is a good question. He also asks Jack what he thinks he's captain of, the innuendo squad? And later the Doctor calls him "Mickey the Idiot" since he almost lets Margaret-Slitheen escape, even though the Doctor can stop her anyway. Not very friendly! Unlike the female bonding, where the Slitheen sincerely seems to feel something for the pregnant woman she doesn't want to kill, though the Doctor is right that the pregnant woman is the one who allows Margaret-Slitheen to live with herself as she kills thousands.

There are lots of other funny moments, like Jack (on whom I have a raging crush, which I am sure is no surprise whatsoever to anyone) asking the Doctor for orders only to be told to use his own plan, Margaret climbing out the window to flee from the Doctor and ranting that no one in London cares if she's building a nuclear power plant that could destroy the world becuase no one in London would notice if Cardiff or the southwest coast fell into the sea, Jack creaming his pants over the design for the equipment to harness the power of the rift...then it turns serious very effectively, with Margaret-Slitheen exponentially increasing her campaign to avoid going home and getting executed, asking the Doctor to take her to a favorite restaurant and wondering if he can take supper with a creature he's about to kill.

All through the episode I kept thinking about how the skin she was wearing wasn't even her own and wondering why in hell he trusted her or felt sorry for her at all, given the things she had done, and then Margaret totally nailed it, realizing that only a killer would understand why sometimes you have to let one go. This is all playing out against Rose and Mickey's rather trivial yet heartfelt romantic woes (and Noel Clarke is really terrific) and the rift opening, with the Doctor telling Jack to protect Rose from Margaret even if it risks the entire planet. Lovely moment, that, and when Jack watches the Doctor watching Rose walk away with Mickey, though Margaret getting to live her entire life over again seems a little hokey to me...sure, she might have been a better person if she'd been raised right, but that doesn't change the hundreds she killed and the billions she was prepared to kill. I'm a little ambivalent about the ambivalent ending. I guess we're supposed to think about the Doctor the same way when we find out the things he's done, rather like Methos from Highlander.

On Saturday younger son has soccer early, then we are all going to The Da Vinci Code. Am not expecting great things, will be perfectly content with reasonably interesting things!

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