The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
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Poem for Wednesday


One Calvinist's God
By Elise Partridge


Your deity was as patient as a heron,
watching and waiting, as if he could stand for a week
without trembling once on those old-man’s legs;
then with one jab of his beak

stab you and gulp. Or, a bald eagle, he’d hunch
on a pine snag or barnacled dais of rock,
scowling, scanning the shore for a newborn duck
to scoop from the flock.

Even the hopping robin who tilted one eye
as though listening at blades of grass put you on guard,
in case he should snap you, wormlike, a writhing thread
from your white-fenced yard.

One midnight, you imagine, you’ll be swept up,
a mouse off a toadstool, shrieking into the air;
gathered by icepick talons to his tweedy chest,
his yellow-eyed glare.

--------

This is the same poet as the past two days from Arc Poetry, a guest column by Lynda Grace Philippsen. "The Christian doctrine of 'The Rapture' and Calvin’s 'Preordained Selection' are subverted in the predatory imagery of this poem," writes Philippsen. "There is nothing resembling ecstatic delight to be found as prey in the clutches of a raptor, and there is more than a little sense of being duped when chosen by God only to find an omnipotent 'yellow-eyed glare.' Poignancy and courage imbue the lines if the reader knows that the poet has, for a number of years now, been living with and fighting cancer...no matter which way the spin doctors twist it, the elected die. An entirely sinister business no matter what. Partridge never lets the reader forget it, giving a stanza each to the heron's patience, the eagle's scowl, and the owl's swoop. Even the innocuous robin doesn't get away with being benign."

I have had a strange and stressful day, though it was a nice day with my family -- the kids had no school because the buildings are used as polling places for the Maryland primary election and we met Paul for lunch at Minerva, the wonderful Indian restaurant in Gaithersburg that shows MTV India during the lunch hour, which is awesome. We needed to be up in that direction to get Adam's violin repaired -- the sound post was off -- and to get new binders since the kids tend to destroy theirs midway through the school year and we're at that point. I love the violin shop, which only carries very high-quality string instruments and has historic prints and plates for printing music on the walls. A couple of quick photos:


Three handmade instruments at Lashof Violins in Gaithersburg, Maryland.


This violin has a beautiful waterside scene decorating the underside...


...and this viola d'amore, a Baroque instrument, has 14 strings and a long curved neck.
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I was distracted through all of this by two discoveries: first that the husband of a friend had been killed in an accident last week -- she was a friend originally from fandom, but she used to live in Virginia and my husband and I were friendly with her husband and her at the time -- they were at our younger son's baby naming. I called a mutual acquaintance who was at one time a very good friend of mine, who lives near my in-laws' old house where we used to visit regularly. And in the course of trying to find out whether I could do something practical for the friend who lost her husband, leaving her with two little girls, I learned that my very good friend and her husband have split up. She also has two young children and this makes me sad too.

We stopped in Best Buy under the mistaken impression that American Gangster came out on DVD this week (it's next week) and had a quarrel with my children about Soulcaliber Legends, which looks to me like a $50 Wii version of AdventureQuest/Runescape with lots of killing fantasy creatures with a sword -- they have the money to buy it but I really resist games that are that focused on killing. By the time we went to vote, the ice storm currently messing things up outside had begun and we decided not to go get our free tacos at California Tortilla (given to everyone with an "I Voted" sticker) because we were afraid we wouldn't be able to get the ice off the windows afterward -- our doors were sticking shut by the time we got home.

Watched the election returns though Maryland's came in late because a judge ruled that the polls had to stay open to accommodate people having problems from the weather, discovered that my Democratic Senator voted with the Republicans to approve spying on citizens and giving protection to warrantless eavesdroppers...Barbara Mikulski, I am going to remember this when you are up for reelection. Then watched Boston Legal, which despite interruptions by local news with updated results was extremely enjoyable -- Scott Bakula as Shirley's old boyfriend and Denny and Alan hot for the same woman!

Shirley is visited by her old friend Andrea, who wants to stop her town from building a nuclear power plant. Denny promptly holds up condoms and offers to serve and protect; ten minutes later, the deed has been done. Shirley is distracted by the opposing counsel, her law school boyfriend Jack, who accuses Andrea of libel for her statements against nuclear energy. Carl is upset about Jack's presence even though Shirley thinks Jack's defense of nuclear energy as possible salvation for the planet is hopelessly naive, and recruits Alan to the case. Alan promptly has sex with Andrea too, not realizing that she's the woman Denny has been bragging about because Denny never bothered to find out Andrea's name.

While Jack and Alan are trading barbs about nuclear energy in court -- Jack claiming it's a much safer alternative to dependence on fossil fuels which cause cancer just as surely as radiation, Alan pointing out that a meltdown or a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant could kill hundreds of thousands of people -- Shirley is reliving her young love with Jack, who takes her out for burgers near Harvard and sings her a nostalgic love song ("Once Upon a Time") on the piano there. Carl looks in the window, sees them there, and breaks up with Shirley the next morning; Shirley promptly fires him. When they have calmed down, Carl admits that what he really wants is a soulmate, but he feels like Shirley only wants an accessory, and they both deserve better. They also agree that he's not really leaving the firm.

Denny wants more too: he wants to swing with Alan, suggesting that it would be fun if they got together with Denny's sexy anonymous woman and Alan's new fling and swapped. Initially reluctant, Alan agrees to try it, and after the judge rules against Jack not based on Alan's powerful argument about the unknowns in radiation safety and the risk of human error or sabotage but because his mother lives in the community slated to get the nuclear power plant, Alan and Denny head out with Andrea, only to discover that she's the only woman coming. Andrea is game for a three-way but Alan leaves to go console Shirley, who is sad both about losing Carl and letting go of the might-have-been represented by Jack, and hasn't taken Denny up on his offer of a shoulder, a hug or an erection. (She should have agreed to be Denny, Alan and Andrea's fourth, and sent Jack and his musical theater to Missy!)

Elsewhere in the office, Lee keeps visiting Katie and telling her in nasty terms to stay away from Jerry -- she calls Katie a whore and a crybaby, while denying to Jerry that she ever said anything of the sort. Katie finally resorts to recording Lee on her iPhone after taunting Lee about how sexy the iPhone is; Lee complains that Katie is exploiting her disability. (Let's be real: it's this show's writers who have been doing that for weeks and it's completely obnoxious by now.) Of course once Katie shows Jerry how Lee has been lying about her behavior to him, Jerry rejects her rather than sympathizing (even though Jerry has been both a pathological liar and a kidnapper in th past...so sweet Katie comes across as a whiny bitch and autistic Lee comes across as, in Katie's words, a psycho).

Balcony scene: Denny admits he didn't have sex with Andrea because he was so depressed about missing out on swinging with Alan, and is jealous that Alan got cheek-kissing action with Shirley. Denny suggests that they should have a three-way, since it's the one thing they haven't shared, but Alan says he can't handle the thought of being in a bed with a naked, sweating Denny and that's as far as he can go even in imagination. Changing the subject back to love, which Alan tells Shirley he has experienced as a varsity sport of sorts, Alan says he doubts that Shirley is brokenhearted over Carl so much as over the might-have-been with Jack. Lovers come and go, agrees Denny, "but not everybody has friends like us." (So it ends nicely, despite the atrocious treatment of mental illness and wimping out on the nuclear energy issue.)
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