The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

Say Summer/ For My Mother
By Stanley Plumly

I could give it back to you, perhaps in a season,
say summer. I could give you leaf back, green
grass, sky full of rain, root
that won't dig deeper, the names called out
just before sundown: Linda back, Susy back,
I could give you back supper
on the porch or the room without a breath
of fresh air, back the little tears in the heat,
the hot sleep on the kitchen floor,
back the talk in the great dark,
the voices low on the lawn
so the children can't hear,
say summer, say father, say mother:
Ruth and Mary and Esther, names in a book,
names I remember -- I could give you back this name,
and back the breath to say it with --
we all know we'll die of our children --
back the tree bent over the water,
back the sun burning down,
back the witness back each morning.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "Reading even a little Japanese poetry in translation reminds us of the cultural importance of the seasons. Evoking an exact time of year and an associated emotion, in a way that makes the tradition fresh, is the poet's goal," writes Pinsky, citing haiku writers: "For example, the 18th-century writer known as Issa indicates the craving for shelter and companionship as winter comes on: 'Deer licking / first frost / from each other's coats.'" Plumly's poem in a similar tradition "refers to a world of American summers and a world of losses, with the word 'say' meaning both 'for example' and the act of naming."

It has been a very long but entirely satisfying Saturday, starting at the outrageously early hour of 6:45 a.m. so we could get to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in time for Breakfast With the Penguins, which we had promised younger son that we would do as part of his birthday present (he also adopted one of the penguins and got a photo, certificate, fact sheet and stuffed penguin, which were delivered at the breakfast). They had set up tables near the penguin enclosure and brought out two "ambassador penguins" -- an adolescent and a young adult -- plus feathers, a preserved skull and things like that so they could talk about penguin biology and habitat while we ate eggs, sausage, pancakes, pastries, etc. Then they took small groups, gave everyone disposable gloves and let each person throw a fish to the swimming penguin population. Son was extremely pleased, and after the breakfast we had the zoo to ourselves for a little while before it opened to the public and got to see very active chimpanzees, roaring lions, fighting rhinos and other animals in the Africa region before going to the Parakeet Landing so budgies could poop land on our arms.

These are the two "penguin ambassadors" who attended breakfast on the lawn with us, here resting in a portable crib. They are sisters, born about a year apart; I can't remember the name of the one on the left, the one on the right is named Ascot.

A crowd of adolescent penguins on the wall watches a crowd of adult penguins swimming in the enclosure. The self-chosen segregation amused us.

To raise money for a group in South Africa that rescues and rehabilitates African penguins, the Maryland Zoo penguins created paintings with their feet which were auctioned off. Here is a poster of the penguins hard at work. (Apparently their favorite part of this activity was knocking the paint containers over and watching them roll around.)

Happy breakfasters throwing fish to the penguins!

The penguins were very happy about this and swam around, fighting with the cormorants to get the fish!

But as the temperature climbed, they wanted to go back into their air-conditioned enclosure, and upon discovering that they were locked out for the duration of the breakfast, they started lining up to get in.

Since it was nearly a hundred degrees, we only stayed at the zoo for a few hours, then went to Harborplace for lunch (crab cakes, fish and chips, naturally), then the National Aquarium where it was cooler even in the rainforest and Australia exhibits than outside. There were several animals on display that weren't the last time we saw the new Australia wing: flying foxes, kookaburras, several species of birds and a python, to name a few. We also went to see the dolphins, though not the show -- they were only doing it once in the afternoon to let the new baby rest, so we just watched them in their big pools -- and went fairly rapidly through the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic sections so we could go see the puffins, the rainforest (where we saw the golden lion tamarins, the sloth, the iguana and several turtles in addition to the wide variety of birds and fish there), the Atlantic reef and the shark and ray tanks.

On the way to Camden Yards we visited the USS Constellation long enough to see the newly restored wardroom and officers' quarters, which had been closed off ever since we started visiting the ship (one of the nice things about membership is that we can stop for 15 minutes every time we're in Baltimore instead of trying to do the full three-hour tour with restless kids once a year). Then we went to the Orioles game, where we saw the Orioles demonstrate such skills as stranding men on base, hitting into double plays, pitching home-run balls to consecutive batters and failing to signal effectively that the player on second needed to run to third because the player on first was already 3/4 of the way to second. The White Sox at times played nearly as badly as the Orioles but they were still ahead by several points when we left, and though the Orioles tried valiantly to come back several times, it was never quite enough. Ah well, our seats were in the shade and there was frozen lemonade and Frank Thomas is no longer on the White Sox so I had no dilemma about who to root for (the losers, hah), and my father-in-law met us with a friend of his since my mother-in-law is still recovering from bronchitis.

Dear Mel Gibson, I don't really give a flying fuck what you said when you were so drunk you couldn't walk straight, all though none of it surprises me at all. I've long believed you were a filthy, despicable bigot based on the things you've said and done when you were sober, and I haven't paid to watch a single one of your films since then. No Love, Me.

On Sunday, younger son is meeting with a new violin teacher, we are going out with my father since my mother is still visiting my sister in New York, and if the evening weather is nice we may go to see Lisa Moscatiello at the Columbia lakefront. Right now a huge moth outside trying to get at the kitchen light is making the cats chitter frantically so I had better go see about it!

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