By Dorianne Laux
Not nearly a woman like the backyard cedar
whose branches fall and curl,
whose curved body sways in wind,
the little magnolia is still a girl,
her first blossoms tied like white strips of rag
to the tips of her twiggy pigtails.
Who are the trees? They live
half in air, half below ground,
both rooted and homeless, like the man
who wedges his life between
the windbreak wall of the Laundromat
and the broken fence, a strip of gritty earth
where he's unfolded his section
of clean cardboard, his Goodwill blanket.
Here's his cup, his candle, his knife.
"A poem in Dorianne Laux's recent collection Facts About the Moon...has the quality of speed, incorporating reversal into a more zigzag movement," writes Robert Pinsky in Sunday's Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "The title is like a magician's gesture of misdirection. The metaphors of the first sentence get displaced or amended by the central question, and even the simile that compares 'rooted and homeless' trees to the 'rooted and homeless' man is not a resting place or resolution. It depends on the more enigmatic, unresolved question: In what way does the homeless man, or anyone, live 'half in air, half below ground'? The poem touches on the way any perception, any thought, perhaps any life, exists in two elements, half-submerged and half-exposed. As the three nouns of Laux's final line suggest, human life, like poetry, requires -- along with a container for sustenance and a source of light -- a sharp instrument."
After a quiet morning ("quiet" meaning "got to sleep late after husband fed and distracted the mewling cats while younger son had his last morning of Hebrew school for the year"), we picked up my parents and went to the National Portrait Gallery, which has a visiting exhibit, Great Britons, from that other National Portrait Gallery: everyone from Elizabeth I and Richard III to Nelson and Emma to Ian McKellen and J.K. Rowling (it amuses me greatly that Mick Jagger is officially "Sir Michael Jagger" and that T.S. Eliot is represented by a Modernist painting in which he is unrecognizable). Of course we also went through the most famous area of the National Portrait Gallery -- American Presidents -- plus the exhibit on the presidents and the Cold War.
The National Portrait Gallery adjoins the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Reynolds Center much as the Sackler and Freer Galleries are connected on the National Mall, so we went through several of the exhibits there too, connected on the upper floor by a collection of Henry Benson photographs. From there we walked a block to the National Building Museum to see the exhibit on various restorations/rebuildings/reimaginings of the Globe Theatre, including the one Joseph Papp has planned for New York's waterfront. Of course photography was not permitted in American Presidents or Great Britons, so here are a few images from other areas, all taken without flash with the new camera so forgive any darkness/blur/color distortion as I am still trying to figure out when to use vibration reduction versus when to use anti-shake:
Peacocks and Peonies, stained glass by John Lafarge (1882).
A Steinway piano painted by Thomas Dewing on display in a room with several of his paintings.
J. William Fosdick's Adoration of St. Joan of Arc (1896), fire-etched wood relief (made by pyrography, burning the wood with red-hot tools), in the Gilded Age gallery.
Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, created by James Hampton between 1950 and 1964 -- crowns and thrones made of paper and wood wrapped in silver and gold foil, discovered after the artist's death in a garage.
My parents and kids posing with masks on display in the Saul Steinberg: Illuminations exhibit. That's my mom doing the very mature "donkey ears" pose.
apaulled made pistachio-crusted chicken and caesar salad for dinner and chocolate chip pie for dessert. I gave my mother The Jewish Book of Days; she gave me The Wicked Witch of the West Barbie, which she knew I wanted very much, as I have all the Wizard of Oz Barbies from the series ten years ago but they didn't make a Wicked Witch and this one has lovely green skin...anyone looking to turn a Barbie into an Orion Slave Girl really needs to check her out. Spouse got me the aforementioned new camera a few weeks ago, so he was off the hook on presents. My kids made me cards, but older son thoroughly ruined my evening with a school-related incident so I am just going to try to block that out. The joys of motherhood! Oh and thank you, muccamukk, for my present!