By Wallace Stevens
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound.
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, "I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?"
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss."
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feel shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay."
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
It's midnight and The Washington Post does not have this week's Book World posted yet on the web site, so Poet's Choice will have to wait a day.
I spent a great deal of time this morning cleaning and organizing things, which makes it incredibly sad that my dining room table has just as much stuff piled on it as it did this morning and the basement still looks pretty close to a disaster area. Waah! Well, at least now I can find all my "jewelry" (I put that in quotation marks as the only gold chains I own were Bat Mitzvah presents, none of my silver is worth more than a few bucks and most of my bracelets are plastic charm thingies like the one with all the Elvii that I got at Graceland), and some of the books on spirituality that I had relegated to the basement have been moved upstairs again because I buried some of the Star Trek books in piles with other Star Trek books. Incidentally, if anyone would like a near-complete set of Enterprise paperbacks, they're all yours so long as you come pick them up, so I don't have to deal with packing, shipping, etc. They're mint and the only ones I have any urge to keep are the ones in that big series including all the Star Trek shows...then again, actually, I would probably give up the series.
In the afternoon we went out to lunch at California Tortilla with younger son's soccer team, who had their last game of the season...they lost, but didn't care once they had burritos and hot sauce. Then we went to Meadowside Nature Center because it was over 70 degrees and who can resist being outdoors in such weather? We thought about going back to Sugarloaf since our climb was cut short due to rain, then we thought about going to the National Arboretum and actually started driving there before hitting insane University of Maryland football traffic (they beat Miami, and are now the first team to beat both Miami and Florida State in the same season since the 1980s, whoo, but heading east on the Beltway was impossible), so we ended up canning that idea and following Rock Creek...
...these leaves, for instance, growing at creekside in the woods.
Here, seen through the screen from inside the nature center, are little birds enjoying the free food.
There are also much larger birds indoors, like this barn owl...
...and this great horned owl who lives in a cage overlooking the teepee and other Native American artifacts.
There is also a recreation of a cave with many examples of local wildlife, most of which are dead and stuffed, but this fish in the pond (seen from in the cave through glass) and the turtle you can't see behind it in this photo are alive.
This snake lives in a room that used to have examples of animals from all over, including a tarantula and an iguana, but the park has decided to focus on local fauna so now there are only a couple of snakes, toads and turtles.
Outdoors there are several large flight cages for injured raptors, including a turkey vulture, a pair of hawks and this bald eagle.
Is it wrong that the rumors that Eva Longoria and Beyonce Knowles are going to play lesbian lovers in Tipping the Velvet makes me very hot? And is it wrong that when I discovered I needed to write an article on Harve Bennett based on a very long original, I rolled my eyes and was annoyed considering I interviewed him earlier this year and did not want to slog through it, only to discover that it was the Israeli fan group and most of the interview was about the Jewish roots I didn't realize he had (his real name is Chaim Fischman), filming A Woman Called Golda in Israel and screening it for the Knesset and things like that, and I enjoyed it much more than all the Trek stuff we usually get about him? Oh and on the Old Gossip front, Jeri Ryan told USA Today that she met her fiance, Christopher Eme, while she was involved in another relationship. Did she dump Brannon Braga for him? Oh, more wrongness in my thoughts!