Souvenir of the Ancient World
By Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Translated by Mark Strand
Clara strolled in the garden with the children.
The sky was green over the grass,
the water was golden under the bridges,
other elements were blue and rose and orange,
a policeman smiled, bicycles passed,
a girl stepped onto the lawn to catch a bird,
the whole world-- Germany, China--
all was quiet around Clara.
The children looked at the sky: it was not forbidden.
Mouth, nose, eyes were open. There was no danger.
What Clara feared were the flu, the heat, the insects.
Clara feared missing the eleven o'clock trolley,
waiting for letters slow to arrive,
not always being able to wear a new dress. But
she strolled in the garden, in the morning!
They had gardens, they had mornings in those days!
From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "The first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks raise the idea of a permanent fracture between before and after," he writes. "The scale and nature of both calamities suggest a permanent change not only in the lives of those directly affected but also of life itself, for everyone. For example, our concept of what an American city is may be changed forever by driving past mile after mile of ghost neighborhoods in New Orleans -- block after block of devastation, still, a year later. The time before a disaster can come to feel like a lost innocence." Pinsky wonders whether there is a poem "about disaster so transforming that it seems to destroy normality itself" (has he never read any of the post-Holocaust poets?) The poem above is by the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, and Pinsky says, "The title invites us to expect a poem about some artifact or picture out of antiquity. It also upsets another expectation, the idea that disaster must be evoked by extreme rhetoric, or images of horror." By repeating the name of Clara, the poet "implies disparity between the human scale of any specific and the massive scale of technologies so lethal that they can make names irrelevant...a reader can feel very close to Clara and those quiet days, as well as very far from them."
Happy, full and exhausted! Had a very lovely ceremony (son woke up perfectly calm, breezed through his Torah reading and prayers) and fun party with only minor stress (mislabeled place cards, lack of information about precisely what was expected from whom for candlelighting ceremony). Saw many out-of-town friends, danced with my kids and nieces (gblvr and I got to do our "Y.M.C.A." too -- it cracks me up that all the songs that were new when I was going to Bar Mitzvahs are still Bar Mitzvah songs, like that and "Celebration" which I think is habitually played at all Jewish life cycle events in a post-"Sunrise, Sunset" world).
I still wish going to temple felt like an authentic spiritual experience to me...I feel connected to history, to the Jewish people and to Israel but it's in a very secular and sometimes angry way. I can't bear the Reform Jewish emphasis on the Holocaust at every single happy event, although I understand it from a political standpoint since we live in a world where in so many places Jewish lives count for so little. I can't stand listening to people use support of Israel's right to exist as a reason for supporting right-wing leaders in the US. I suppose I thought a Bar Mitzvah might be an epiphany of some sort, something would go click and make me feel connected to this particular congregation, but despite the sermon on community and the fact that I love pretty much everyone who attended our ceremony, there's still a big piece of me pushing away from all that and from the parts of the liturgy that I just can't accept, personally.
Nonetheless the ceremony was beautiful and the day would have been nearly perfect had someone not walked off with the Kirby centerpiece -- the only one older son cared about -- mother took home Mario and Luigi as decorations for Sunday brunch, and we have Star Fox, Yoshi, etc. here, but son decided to melt down over the big pink blob! It took awhile to calm him down so he would go swimming with West Coast cousin, and again before opening presents, which was something of a shock! I think he's exhausted...not sure it's a great idea giving them their kiddush cups and having them read at services the night before, considering no one gets home till 10:30 and then everyone has to get up very early the next morning. I took almost no photos, left that to the professionals, but here are a couple...
This is how some of the younger ones looked when the dance contest was over. We had a young magician to entertain them when they needed to sit.
One of the tables with game centerpiece, card-theme balloons and magician's stand (the kids were all up getting dessert).
The temple gives one of these kiddush cups to each Bar and Bat Mitzvah, as well as planting a tree in Israel for them.
We had the reception at a Marriott Suites and I must express my very great pleasure with the hotel...not sure if the whole chain is like this, but the food was great, the organization was superb and the rooms were very nice (they let us use a suite for the day so we could take the kids swimming in the evening). I was also thrilled with our DJ who was very receptive to requests and great with the kids, most of whom are not dancers and were much more interested in games with prizes. I am very happy and proud, and everyone said I was glowing on the bimah, but I must admit that a major emotion is relief that it's over! Sunday we are having brunch at my parents' with relatives and her out-of-town friends, with whom I barely got to speak today because I was talking to my out-of-town friends and the locals I managed to persuade to come! *g*