By Eliza Griswold
The soldiers are children and the monkey's young.
He clings to my leg, heart against calf --
a throat filling, refilling with blood.
Last week, the children ate his mother --
dashed her head against the breadfruit.
A young girl soldier laughs,
tears the baby from my leg
and hurls him toward the tree.
See, she says, you have to be rough.
When she was taken, the girl's
heart too pulsed in her throat.
From Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World (which incidentally does not come with a warning), where Robert Pinsky discusses writers who honed their skills while while working as journalists, like Griswold. "The demands of concision, clarity and accuracy helped develop their gifts. But a poem reports about something different from news," observes Pinsky. In "Monkey," he adds, the tone is declarative, "but along with that directness each line creates overtones and undertones: for instance, the deceptive parallelism of 'children' and 'young'; the disorientation of 'heart against calf,' with its echo of 'heart against head'; the way 'throat,' 'heart' and 'blood' suggest the poet's body or feelings, along with the animal's; the implied, ghost-sentence 'child ate his mother'; the way 'too' in the last line could include the poet's heart and throat, as well as the girl's and the monkey's."
We spent today in on the water in Baltimore, where Sail Baltimore is currently hosting Tall Ship Night, and most of the ships were already there today in anticipation. Two huge Naval ships, the Cisne Branco from Brazil (which we had boarded before) and the INS Tarangini from India (which we had not) were docked right in front of Harborplace, which was also crowded with musicians, magicians, animal balloon artists, vendors and a crowd moving between the science museum, carousel, World Trade Center, aquarium and the various other ships and boats. We walked around to Pier 4 behind the National Aquarium and Power Plant because the barque Picton Castle was there from Nova Scotia. By the time we had walked back around the harbor and visited the Maryland Science Center for a few minutes among the permanent exhibits and a snack, the HNLMS Urania from the Netherlands had just docked and was beginning to take down her sails.
Here is Cisne Branco behind the Harborplace banner that marks the boundary of the outdoor amphitheater where musicians and jugglers perform.
Urania had only just arrived when we left the Maryland Science Center. The crew was covering her sails with Royal Netherlands Navy covers.
Tarangini was the furthest from home. I'm not sure whether this officer was enjoying the view of the aquarium or missing his family.
And around the back, Picton Castle, from Canada, had the crew doing maintenance and the ship's animals wandering on deck.
We debated going to see Al Petteway and Amy White performing for free in a park near Baltimore, but the kids were a bit fried and we had lots to do to prepare for going to Virginia Beach on Monday, so we came home, ate our picnic here and did a bunch of cleaning and organizing. Prince of Egypt was on cable, and I hadn't seen it since the kids were much younger and we wanted to record it on DVD, so we half-watched it. I forgot how much I love that version of the story, not at all strict in its obedience to Exodus but I find the characters so much more appealing than The Ten Commandments with its overblown love triangle and over-the-top Charlton Heston. This one is a less pompous story of two brothers, their conflicts with their father figures, and the far more empowered women in Moses' communities than the dominant Egyptian culture. On a think-of-the-children scale, there are few tales as awful as Exodus, and in Prince of Egypt when Moses discovers that the father he loves fed babies like him to crocodiles, the scene is terrifying. I don't ever remember being scared during The Ten Commandments -- I was angry. (I also like that God's voice in Prince of Egypt is higher-pitched than Seti I's -- played by Patrick Stewart, with Val Kilmer as Moses, Ralph Fiennes as Rameses, plus Helen Mirren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Martin, Martin Short -- has any other animated movie ever boasted such a voice cast?)