Self-Portrait With Red Eyes
By Henri Cole
Throughout our affair of eleven years,
disappearing into the pleasure-unto-death
acts I recall now as love and, afterward,
orbiting through the long, deep sleeps
in which memory, motor of everything,
reconstituted itself, I cared nothing about
life outside the walls of our bedroom.
The hand erasing writes the real thing,
and I am trying. I loved life and see now
this was a weakness. I loved the little
births and deaths occurring in us daily.
Even the white spit on your sharp teeth
was the foam of love, saying to me: It is not true,
after all, that you were never loved.
"One pleasure of art comes from how accurately it can convey ambivalence. In a poem, form can have things both ways at once, emotionally: understated and bold, dark and bright, somber and funny, painful and cool, angry and sympathetic," writes Robert Pinsky in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, focusing on Henri Cole's Blackbird and Wolf. "Cole expresses double feelings with a less traditional structure in 14 lines. A lover's presence and absence correspond to two units divided precisely in the middle -- seven lines about having and seven lines about lacking...the final line and a half works a little like a Shakespearean sonnet's couplet, resolving or summarizing mingled feelings of hurt and redemption.
We went downtown Saturday to the Ripley and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian, the former of which has an exhibit on the French and Indian War that ends Sunday, the latter of which has an exhibit on Portugal in the Age of Exploration. Both were excellent. The American exhibit -- which has a lot of information about Canadian development and bilingual notations, which makes me suspect it's traveling to Canada from here -- puts a strong emphasis on George Washington's role (they have the original surrender document signed by Washington at Fort Necessity -- you've seen this exhibit, yes, cidercupcakes?) There's some early American artwork, a magnificent collection of engraved powder horns and the only surviving complete British officer's uniform from America before the Revolution, which has never before been displayed outside of Britain.
The exhibit on Portuguese exploration had nautical equipment and artifacts from the extent of the Portuguese empire in Brazil, Asia and Africa, including religious and ceremonial items from Japan which didn't even exist on the earlier maps, which evolved from showing big scary fish in the unknown reaches of the Atlantic to filling in most of the world. I didn't realize that Saint Francis Xavier had made it to Japan. It was almost as interesting seeing the paths by which the artifacts in the exhibit had come to Washington as seeing the artifacts themselves; there was a huge ornate incense burner, for instance, originally German, on loan from a museum in Moscow, and a massive urn made from a single Seychelles nut...am trying to find out the variety but so far having no luck learning online. We also stopped in the Freer Gallery's Peacock Room at younger son's request. The city was very pretty in honor of Lady Bird Johnson -- there were tributes going on.
In the evening we went to a free outdoor performance of As You Like It, entertaining enough but not particularly brilliant...not with the energy of The Tempest at Olney a couple of weeks ago, at any rate, though it may just be that As You Like It is not among my favorite comedies nor even my favorite where a woman pretends to be a man. This production was by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and set in Belle Epoque France, which allowed for some pretty costumes and the usually unpleasant Duke Frederick was transformed into a duchess, which made the angry exchanges with Celia more interesting and less typical. But the setting didn't add anything particularly wonderful other than getting to hear "La Marseillaise" before the wrestling match -- a most appropriate addition for le quatorze juillet. The cicadas and crickets were quite vocal all evening, though, so the forest really sounded like a forest!
There was an unusually large crowd for the play -- we've seen Lisa Moscatiello, Ruthie and the Wranglers, Pete & Laurie and several other local musicians here and no one brought in this many people.
Orlando, left, was properly attractive...
...but Celia, left, was more charismatic than Rosalind as both herself and Ganymede, which created some imbalance for the drama.
There was lots of music and there were lots of flowers onstage, both of which were welcome additions.
Jaques delivering the "all the world's a stage" speech, with the stage lit for the forest after dark.
Happy Birthday, gblvr!