The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday

From "Mountain Time"
By Kathryn Stripling Byer

Up here in the mountains
we know what extinct means. We've seen
how our breath on a bitter night
fades like a ghost from the window glass.
We know the wolf's gone.
The panther. We've heard the old stories
run down, stutter out
into silence. Who knows where we're heading?
All roads seem to lead
to Millennium, dark roads with drop-offs
we can't plumb. It's time to be brought up short
now with the tale-tellers' Listen: There once lived
a woman named Delphia
who walked through these hills teaching children
to read. She was known as a quilter
whose hand never wearied, a mother
who raised up two daughters to pass on
her words like a strong chain of stitches.
Imagine her sitting among us,
her quick thimble moving along these lines
as if to hear every word striking true
as the stab of her needle through calico.
While prophets discourse about endings,
don't you think she'd tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time, let's say.
A blind stitch
that clings to the edges
of what's left, the ripped
scraps and remnants, whatever
won't stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt's falling to pieces.


I have attended what is very likely my last elementary school Halloween parade, at least until I have grandchildren, and as I expected, I am rather melancholy about this even though I ended up with a bit of a headache from trying to supervise the distribution of cupcakes and drinks to the kids in younger son's class after another mother had the brilliant idea of them decorating pillowcases to use as trick-or-treat bags...with permanent, slow-drying glitter paint. Which got all over everyone's clothes and costumes in its charming unwashable state, and was still wet when the kids had to gather their carefully decorated pillowcases to take home on the bus or walking. I am not sure who ended up with a bigger mess: the ones who folded their pillowcases, thus ruining the designs they had worked on so carefully, or the ones who tried to carry them in such a way that the paint would not rub on the other side of the case, thus leaving it open to rub on their hands, faces, clothes, etc. the whole way home. I was feeling badly because I had to borrow Bingo from my mother, being unable to find our set, but as it turns out there was no time to play anyway, and I think silent reading might have been less frustrating in the end than the pillowcases were!

Son didn't care, since his pillowcase didn't have an elaborate design in the first place (it said "I like penguins" which is now unreadable and had something sort of resembling a penguin on it, though not in authentic penguin colors), and he was happy enough with the cupcake and pencils and prospect of trick-or-treating even though he had to suffer through Hebrew school first. It seems to me like it got dark earlier this year than before, because usually we get our first trick or treaters around six, but we had them coming at 5:20 before I even had the candy in a bucket and had only just dug out the tea lights to put in the jack-o-lanterns. Nonetheless, we had a good steady crowd and gave away most of our five bags of candy and I took the kids around, where they got enormous bags of loot, then apaulled took them around another cul-de-sac and to my mother's where they got even more loot, and meanwhile I had harvest candles burning all over the house and on the front stoop so people could see and we had a quick dinner of chicken corn chowder and cheese and crackers and it was a perfectly enchanted Halloween.

Our three pumpkins -- little orange one designed by older son, medium white one designed by younger son, big one designed by apaulled. I was in charge of scooping and toasting seeds rather than decorations.

These big, puffy costumes were really in this year.

I mean, how often do you see a fifth grade girl as a sumo wrestler?

The teacher in this photo is Grumpy, as the fourth and fifth grade teachers dressed as the Seven Dwarfs and the Queen.

A cheerleader, a witch and a president. The latter came in for some booing. There were also lots of hippies and peaceniks, which made me very hopeful for the upcoming election (I can't even bear to talk about the insanity locally, where many of the machines will not carry the Democratic candidate for Senate's full name because they changed the font size so it won't fit, and where my sitting corrupt Republican governor runs ads with outright lies about his opponent every night during the news and sports...well, I was highly amused by this mayor, at least, as this seems a novel way to stop underage drinking).

In his classroom, my penguin adjusts his flippers.

Didn't have the tripod while trick or treating so this isn't a very good photo, but there was a ring around the moon!

Thank you, evildrem, beeej and zasjah for my Halloween gifts and greetings! Once the trick or treaters trickled out, I folded laundry while we all watched Hercules' "Stranger in a Strange World", the episode that converted me to incontrovertible adoration of the series -- not only does it have evil!Xena, Gabrielle, Ares as the god of love and slashy jokes about how Herc and Ares are fighting over Iolaus, it has Mirror universe Hercules with a beard, Joxer as the leader of the rebel alliance, a madman trapped between universes, Iolaus yelling, "I am not a numeral! I am a free man!" and many other references to classic science fiction that make me howl. Must watch the two parts of "Armageddon Now" soon and hope it makes sense to my kids without having seen the Xena episodes that explain Callisto's background and Hope. Our late night TV of course was Boston Legal, even crackier than usual but then, it is Halloween.

The wonderful, totally rocking case of the week is Alan representing Jerry who has been arrested for perjury because he lied so he could sit on the jury of a capital case, thinking it unfair that only pro-death people get to try cases where the death penalty is sought. Jerry himself makes some terrific arguments about the insanity of the logic by which people up on capital charges are given a jury hand-picked as good bets to choose death, and Alan tries to get him off saying maybe he was lying to the magazine he told he was against the death penalty rather than to the court, but the judge says the attorney general was particularly eager to try this case in Massachusetts since the state does not have a death penalty and Jerry is going down. In court Alan asks for a definition of "death-qualified jury" and wonders why there is no "jail-qualified jury" or any other sort where potential jurors are interrogated about which forms of punishment they favor for criminals; he wonders whether a jury of people who have declared positive feelings toward the death penalty might be more likely to convict in the first place as they may have fewer problems with assuming guilt.

Jerry testifies that nearly all industrialized countries without dictatorships have outlawed capital punishment and explains that he lied because it's unfair to defendants to have only pro-death people on their juries -- it was an act of civil disobedience on his part. Though Alan is very pessimistic, the prosecuting attorney gives him an idea when he declares in his closing that Jerry defrauded the court and insulted the very system of justice of which the jury trying Jerry is now a part: "Do your duty and send Mr. Espenson to jail." Alan gets up, pointing out that they are specifically there to represent a cross-section of the community in a state which has no death penalty but that that majority is ignored in federal capital cases to put together a "death-qualified jury" -- so how is a defendant getting a jury of his peers? Insisting on death as an option puts the presumption of guilt in minds of jurors when the presumption of innocence is the essence of the American judicial system, adds Alan, who calls Jerry a fundamentally law-abiding man who saw an injustice and tried to do something about it: "If he's guilty of anything, it's of appealing to his sense of fairness. Now he's appealing to yours." The jury finds Jerry not guilty. And I want to lick maple syrup off Alan, even though his assistant Melissa has now become Jeffrey's assistant because she's tired of Alan's fucking in closets, having his sex therapist measure him for suits in the office and things like that. Plus Melissa says that she and Jeffrey "clicked." Ouch.

Speaking of Jeffrey, he is visited by his favorite peeping tom, Lincoln, who hands Shirley a summons and says Mister Dirty Mouth slandered him to the media. Jeffrey wants to represent himself but Paul insists that Brad should handle the case, as it will be an opportunity for the two men to bond. Hee! Lincoln asks Mr. Judge Hooper whether his wife had ever called Lincoln a pedophile in his hearing, which Mr. Judge Hooper denies; he thinks she never said it to Scott Little either, but that Jeffrey made it up on the stand to draw attention away from his client as part of the defense, then handed the story to the media. Brad follows that line with the judge, saying Jeffrey could have been accused of malpractice had he not focused the jury and media on anyone else who could have been a suspect in the Little case, but Lincoln argues that he was damaged by being labeled a potential pedophile and killer even though he's an admitted "peepee" (in his words). "I mean, look at me, judge, I'm damaged," he declares, and the judge appears to agree. Walking into court for the decision, Jeffrey sees Lincoln, tells him he seems sad, asks whether the lawsuit is about getting attention and apologizes for embarrassing him in the course of defending Scott Little -- it wasn't personal -- but Lincoln counters that the slander was very personal. The judge dismisses the case against Jeffrey, deciding that Jeffrey's comments to the media do not constitute defamation of Lincoln's character; he tells Lincoln that normally truth is the best defense to defamation, but Lincoln appears to be a disturbed man. Lincoln's response is to hit the judge over the head with a shovel in the parking lot, apparently killing him.

On the Denny front, Bethany really wants her new boyfriend to meet her mother even though Denny insists that he's not good with mothers: he tends to hit on them. "You'll make the effort with mine!" she says sharply, telling him to be dignified and insisting that he not smoke a cigar or make Clinton jokes about cigars when her mother arrives. However, something even more appalling happens...Bella, who is not a little person as Denny initially feared, turns out to be a onetime fiancee of his. Denny tells Alan that Bethany did not take this well -- she bit him. He distracts himself watching a news report about how President Bush went on a 16-day vacation but Bella visits, explaining that she used to tell her daughter about the great Denny Crane -- it inspired Bethany to go to law school. What she neglected to tell her daughter is that she and Denny were lovers...and that Denny is Bethany's father. When Denny reports this to Alan, asking if two full-sized people can have a midget, he fails to look down, and guess what! Yep, there she is, irate, and Denny, spluttering to break the ice, says, "Who's your daddy?"

As bad as things are for Denny, he is still having a much better week romantically than Denise, who learns that Daniel Post has died when a mariachi band shows up to sing "C'est la vie" which is what Daniel always said about facing it when his time came. He died during lung transplant surgery and his remains are at Massachusetts General. Denise claims to be all right, but when Shirley comes in wearing a Grim Reaper costume for the Halloween party, she cries. Alan goes with her to pay respects, only to learn that they were donated to research and the foot labeled with his name is both African American and too large...when Denise notes this, Alan says, "Could you find my friend something lighter and in a size 8?" (Which is extraordinarily tacky even for Alan and goes a long way to explaining why Melissa would leave him for Jeffrey, who isn't really threatened when Alan confronts him about this but says he's not feeling the love.) Denise tells Shirley that apparently Daniel's cadaver was stolen and his parts sold on the black market ("the very place Daniel did his shopping," says Shirley, which is much more fair), and after much investigation the FBI turn up his spleen and his heart and get a lead on the criminals responsible. Shirley thinks Denise should go to church to get closure, but instead Denise suggests that the man arrested for trafficking in human parts retain her as counsel so he can tell her where Daniel's head is. He says he doesn't know for sure, but there is a famous haunted house in Salem that has a party for Halloween with real heads. So off go Denise and Shirley, who are a little jumpy as fake ghosts go by. Again Shirley suggests that there must be a better way to get closure, as she can't fathom what kind of cult gets off on this sort of haunting. Then she finds Daniel's head on display in a box, and Shirley and Denise scream and scream together.

Everyone else meanwhile is trying to have fun at the office Halloween party, where Brad and Jeffrey have dressed as studly military types while Paul is a devil and Denny, Alan and Claire have dressed as girly triplets in tacky '50s dresses and hairdos. Denny and Alan are smoking, watching Melissa dance with the manly men, and Alan is about to hit on Claire when she calls him a horny toad and turns her back. Later, Denny and Alan are outside smoking in their usual spot (still in the dresses and makeup) and Alan asks Denny if he ever wonders how he'd be as a woman. "I'd be a lesbian," replies Denny without missing a breath. Alan thinks they would look at the world differently, since it's still a man's world, they'd be more vulnerable and could experience the miracle of birth which surely would profoundly influence Denny's perspective on the death penalty...but Denny is more interested in the fact that he'd have his own breasts to fondle. He quotes Kafka on the meaning of life, which is that it ends. "One day you're here and the next..." They look up at the rain. While Alan reflects that he's sorry he didn't get to know Daniel Post, Denny checks him out. Alan catches him and says, "You're not getting into this dress." And they smoke their cigars. Which sometimes are just cigars, but in this case, really, pretty obviously not.

Kids have no school Wednesday so teachers can do report cards, so hubby is taking a half-day of work and we are going to Catoctin to picnic, hike and watch the leaves fall, then to the Grotto of Lourdes because it's right near there and when better to visit the holy spring than All Saints' Day?

  • Greetings from a Rainy Sunday

    I spent the entirety of Sunday, as it rained hard from before dawn till after dusk, doing Pokemon Go's legendary birds raid day (four remotely, six…

  • Greetings from Green Spring Gardens

    We originally had rain forecast for most of the weekend, but Saturday was actually a really nice day, mid-50s and overcast. We did chores in the…

  • Poem for Saturday and Cabin John Crocuses

    Black Heroism is Unskilled Labor By Xandria Phillips Angela makes sure the right people die at the funeral. A grandchild of the Tulsa Massacre,…

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded