At the Border
By Carl Dennis
At the border between the past and the future
No sign on a post warns that your passport
Won't let you return to your native land
As a citizen, just as a tourist
Who won't be allowed to fraternize with the locals.
No guard steps out of a booth to explain
You can't bring gifts back, however modest,
Can't even pass a note to a few friends
That suggests what worries of theirs are misguided,
What expectations too ambitious.
Are you sure you're ready to leave,
To cross the bridge that begins
Under a clear sky and ends in fog?
But look, you've started across already
And it's one-lane wide, with no room for U-turns.
No time even to pause as drivers behind you
Lean on their horns, those who've convinced themselves
Their home awaits them on the other side.
From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, all about the poems of Carl Dennis, noting that this is a rather short poem for him, "building on a single, ramifying figure of speech: the past and the future like two countries, with a frontier -- each present moment -- between them. In its quiet, somewhat playful way, the poem carries that fairly simple idea to surprising depths, ending with a striking image of delusion...as Dennis's cunning, innocent-looking phrase 'your native land' implies, in many ways people feel most at home, emotionally, in the past. It is where we come from, though in our own nostalgias or histories we are tourists, no longer 'locals.'" Pinsky adds that the poet "makes the future seem impractical, even delusional: those impatient drivers, honking to move on, seem oblivious to the inevitable loss, maybe even the incipient panic of having 'started already' across a bridge that is narrow, with no turning back...Dennis gives a dreamy urgency to his compact allegory, with space representing time, and a political border representing the eternal transition of present time. The feeling is not gloomy, but a gentle and haunted metaphysical teasing. Unornamented and intimate, the poem's even voice describes the humdrum details of tourism -- the passport, the bridge, the guard, the traffic -- as emblems of a perpetual journey from one misty idea of home to another."
It was a bit of a weird Saturday. Father called in the morning with a guilt trip: why didn't we come see father's brother, his second wife (not to be confused with his ex-wife, still known as my aunt) and their son while they were in town for just this one day at the end of their son's field trip? (From L.A. to the East Coast, everywhere from Williamsburg to Mount Vernon to the White House -- I cannot even imagine the affluence at his middle school.) The plan ended up being that mother was going out to dinner with uncle's wife, while uncle, his son and my father were going to the Nationals-Orioles game to which we were strongly encouraged to come. I reluctantly called vertigo66, with whom we had plans, told her I thought I would have to postpone, and agreed to meet my relatives downtown after younger son's soccer game.
Then it turned out that uncle and cousin were going to the game with the cousin's school group...and going out to dinner at ESPN Zone first, and possibly sitting in the $55 seats, which made it a ridiculously expensive proposition for my family. And what do they need us for when they're going with the school group? So I politely declined. Uncle called to give me an additional guilt trip about how his son wanted to see his cousins sooo badly (in between the fourth and fifth innings, I guess, since he was sitting with his friends otherwise). Father called to mutter about how come uncle couldn't get his son away from the school group for a little while to see his cousins. Mother called to grumble that she was quite annoyed about being railroaded into going to dinner someplace she didn't want to go. We murmured sympathetically and ran away to soccer.
This is son's second-to-last game of the season (and probably of his soccer-playing days, because he has no interest in competitive sports in middle school), so possibly my last chance to lie near these lovely blooms and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
The players did not appreciate the breeze so much. There was a lot of dust. Also, only five kids from my son's team showed up...they borrowed players from the other team so they could all play!
Everyone always high-fives everyone on the opposite team after the game, even when half of one "team" consists of players from the other.
The good news was that we got to see vertigo66 and her family after all! We went to Spider-Man 3, which I surprised myself greatly by liking better than the first two, despite the reviews. As she said, how often do you see two men crying so much in a superhero movie? And I loved the opening credits, and even though I could have lived without the under-the-Quidditch stands too-long Green Goblin chase at the beginning and the 438th "Our relationship is going nowhere!" scene with Mary Jane spread over three movies, the Sandman special effects absolutely rock and I love James Franco playing tortured. I am very bummed that Spider-Man lost his boyfriend, so it's just as well this may be the last film in the franchise, at least with this cast and director! I like Mary Jane (and Kirsten Dunst) well enough but she's dreadfully written at times, and the dynamic between Peter and Harry is so much more interesting on a whole host of levels from the Oedipal to the sharing-girlfriend business.
I do have a question: Why does Peter not have a cell phone? As a 21st century crime-fighter whose struggling actress girlfriend manages to have one, I would think that single item would be crucial! Even if it's pay-as-you-go, only call the police when you have to sort of thing. I know there are lots of dweeby inconsistencies, like when is it completely dry in the New York subway, but that kind of thing doesn't bother me nearly as much as the excess of Topher Grace's character becoming not only Truly Evil but Truly Evil With Fangs -- I found him really unnecessary to the movie, I'd have written him out entirely and focused on the Sandman. Still, there was enough Harry and his angst to keep me content and hey, torch songs! Not sure why I liked this one so much more than I was expecting...maybe because I found the first one more blah than I had hoped.
After the movie we all went out for pizza together and took a walk. Our kids are at ages now where they have fun together, which is lovely for us! Sunday we are expected at a family brunch with uncle which we may flee ASAP...