The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Wednesday


From "Snow-Bound," 11:1-40, 116-154
By John Greenleaf Whittier


The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
    A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
    The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,--
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the wingèd snow:
And ere the early bed-time came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

                *

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back,--
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."
The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the somber green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

--------

It is COLD here! apaulled, who usually drops younger son off at school, had a phone conference early this morning so I had to take him while it was still in single digits. Brr! After that I was in no mood for venturing out again until I had to, so I stayed in with two nice warm cats and read stuff about England and Wales. Son eventually came home and read the latest issue of Mad Magazine aloud to me while I was trying to write the latest Star Trek actor obituary (Tige Andrews and Lee Bergere both grew up in Brooklyn, studied in New York, worked on Broadway before moving to L.A. and did dozens of TV roles) and Scott Bakula possibly giving away the ending to Blue Smoke, which premieres on Lifetime next week, babbling in an interview.

Watched Kindergarten Cop with the kids, just because it was on...I know I suck, but I love old Schwarzenegger movies. It would be great if he was still making them instead of governing California. Though actually there are much worse Republicans who could be governor. I mean, right now I am hoping Giuliani somehow gets the Republican presidential nomination because on my top two domestic issues -- reproductive and gay rights -- he's a supporter of leaving religion completely out of politics and letting individuals live their lives, and I don't care if his hands are less clean in other areas than John "Raging Hypocrite" McCain. Of course I will not be voting Republican in the next election anyway, but I would love to feel like there's a safety net, not a total nightmare like 2004. And, um, that was all off-topic and Arnold looks great scruffy and playing with kids and I love the little boy who keeps explaining that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina and like I said, I suck.

And after that it was Boston Legal, which went to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind places in one of the most insane cases yet, gave a magnificent and rousing argument against a gay marriage ban in another, and had relationship angst up the wazoo! Oh, Brad, I know you're upset, but I am so disappointed in you and your clichés. Mostly spoilers, not politics: The pointy-nosed judge, Judge Brown, comes to Denny wanting to sue the Christian therapy group that promised to stop him from being SSAD -- he has same-sex attraction disorder, he explains, meaning that he erroneously thinks he's attracted to people of same sex, because he's certainly not "homosexual gay" as Denny calls it. The judge has not been cured despite the therapy and he wants justice. Denny takes the case but asks Alan for help, insisting that he's not entirely comfortable with the subject matter so he needs Alan's brilliant closing. Denny also brings in Bethany, who tells the judge that the reason the faith-based $40,000 cure did not stop a lifetime of forbidden urges is because he's "totally gay." Meanwhile Alan gets another distraction in the form of a very attractive female judge with whom he once had sex after a party, though she claims not to remember. When she threatens to hold him in contempt, he asks, "My handcuffs or yours?"

Shirley gets the even more difficult case of a girl molested by a rabbi who was supposed to be counseling her on intimacy issues. The girl is outspoken, tough and assertive, which is necessary to keep the case from feeling truly awful, since the gist of it is that the girl's psychiatrist father wants to give her a drug that will make her forget this incident lest she should develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The mother opposes the drug even though the girl wants to take it so that, in her own words, she won't have to go through life as a sexual assault survivor. They get the poopycock judge (Judge Sanders, I think?) who has trouble remembering what was said from one sentence to the next, leading Shirley to note that he obviously won't ever need the forgetfulness drug in question.

Shirley jokes that she'd like to erase her first husband, but when she gets serious, she insists repeatedly that the girl will be a sexual assault survivor whether she remembers or not, that the drug itself may be as likely to cause trauma as the event it's meant to erase, and that since people are the sum of their experiences, this is a form of mind-deadening brainwashing. (I wonder why she doesn't simply argue that a psychiatrist-father is too biased to be allowed to treat his own daughter so the mother should have custodial decision-making rights here but I think 16-year-olds can legally refuse cancer treatment so maybe it has to do with that. I also wonder why she doesn't show the girl Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a far more poignant reflection on how loss and memory work.)

Claire sees Denise reading a pregnancy test in the women's room (because all women take pregnancy tests in public office bathrooms, right?) and reminds Denise that it's her choice whether to have the baby or not, no matter who the father is. Denise calls Jeffrey and Brad into her office and demands a swab of their mouth cells to find out who the father is. Jeffrey is very excited at the prospect that someone might be having his baby, but Brad is nervous and asks (just as Denise did with Claire) what he's going to do. Clarence learns from Claire of the pregnancy and advises Jeffrey to talk to Denise if he wants to raise a child with her; Claire tells off Clarence for revealing private conversations she shared with him as his girlfriend; at which point Clarence asks if they can be exclusive, then quits being her assistant because he can't work for his girlfriend.

Soon enough, Clarence is Alan's new assistant and Denny is wondering whether he can date him in his Oprah guise, at which point Alan offers to send Denny for SSAD therapy. Meanwhile, Denise finds out that Brad impregnated her, which saddens Jeffrey. Brad is just starting to get excited about preschools when Denise tells him that she's not sure she's going to have the baby. Brad is furious and starts ranting about the child's rights, at which point Denise says that she'll take out a restraining order against him if she has to. Things do not look good there (and I can't root for her to be with a guy making the knee-jerk pro-life arguments, not "I'd be delighted to support you and our child" or "I really want to raise a child with you"!).

Judge Brown insists that he was robbed of his money by the sexual orientation reassignment therapists. Bethany calls the entire scheme nonsense but the judge says that what she calls nonsense, he calls morality. The head Christian therapist says that people who want to turn their orientation do so -- about 1/3 of their clients succeed, while another 1/3 engage in "occasionally inappropriate" behavior and 1/3 revert to their old same-sex lusts, which Bethany interprets to mean that in the program's eyes, they don't have the grace to hate themselves. The program leader explains that the "homosexual lobby" has managed to keep same-sex attraction from being categorized as a disorder, so his program is the only hope for people who want to be "normal." Thus, if Judge Brown had really wanted to stop being gay, he could have. (Which begs the question of why pay anyone $40,000 for a cure if being gay is all a matter of decision-making.)

Alan appears flummoxed at how best to counter this, so Denny reminds him to think about the "other America" alongside the one Alan lives in -- the one that elects presidents and enacts gay marriage bans. In response to the defense's argument that Judge Brown paid for and was offered salvation but rejected it, Alan gets on an actual soapbox and says that since we have drugs to cure everything, you'd think there would be a pill to cure homosexuality, especially with such a huge profit to be made...but maybe it can't be cured because it's not a disease, even if the religious right would like people to believe otherwise. Alan rails against the idea of a Constitutional ban on gay marriage, which he calls a governmental attack on a whole class of people legitimated by the homophobia of the religious right. Only in America, he adds, where we celebrate prejudice as if it's a form of diversity, could someone take $40,000 without a money-back-guarantee as a payment for a cure for gayness.

In the memory-erasure pill case, the girl's mother objects to the idea of taking a pill every time something bad happens. "It's called life," she says. If trauma causes pain, we have to work through it because adversity teaches people things. The opposing counsel asks whether she inoculated her daughter against polio and the measles, then points out that if the girl had an infectious disease, the mother could not deny her life-saving medicines, but Shirley counters yet again that there isn't enough evidence to say whether the cure will be worse than the disease in this case and anyway, the real issue here is about what makes us who we are -- the sum of our experiences. If Tennyson had taken a pill when his best friend died, she observes, he wouldn't have written "In Memoriam." The judge, confused, can't figure out when Tennyson had a bad experience with a rabbi, but buys her argument that the pill is a form of mind control marketed by drug companies, and since brainwashing is worse than post-traumatic stress disorder and spinach is bad too -- he doesn't like it -- Shirley wins the case.

Alan and Denny also win their case for Judge Brown despite the fact that opposing counsel belatedly wants to poll the jury to learn their sexual orientations. The hot blonde judge has sex with Alan in her chambers, and when she says she may hate herself in the morning, he says that there's now a morning-after pill to erase the experience as well as the other kind of pill, though he advises taking the contraceptive before the amnesia pill. Then Alan goes to have a drink with Denny, who worries that maybe, instead of mad cow, he's suffering from drug-induced muddle-headedness from some enemy who slipped him the forgetfulness pills so Denny won't seek revenge. He and Alan discuss American values, with Alan still angry about an entire class of people being denied their freedoms.

Denny still feels that while he's okay with gay rights, marriage should be sacred vows between men and women that they actually keep almost 50 percent of the time. Besides, what kind of biological children would two people of the same sex have together? If gays really want rights, Denny concludes, they need to join the NRA, and then Congress will bend over and do whatever they want. Adoring the idea of a gay gun lobby, Alan asks Denny for a sleepover. At first Denny says, "I knew you'd go there," claiming that every time he says something Alan agrees with, Alan wants to get cuddly, which is sexual harassment, but once Alan agrees to lots of food and separate beds, they start making plans.

Conclusion: Instead of marrying both Brad and Jeffrey, Denise should marry Alan and Denny. And Shirley, because all three of them are hot for her and it probably takes three people to keep her satisfied!


Parakeets struggle for position vis a vis the food bowls...and if that means sitting in one, so be it.


We didn't see any squabbling, though, just birds taking turns jumping into the food bowls to eat.


The bird in the front is the one younger son desperately wanted us to bring home with us. I can only imagine how much the cats would have loved that. ETA: Here are some of our parakeets from over the years before we had cats!
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Younger son has an early orthodontist appointment and supposedly there will still be snow on the ground in the morning and I hate driving in snow! Augh!
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