The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

Samurai Song
By Robert Pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted sleep.


From the Letters column in Sunday's Washington Post Book World, a farewell to Robert Pinsky from his Poet's Choice column readers. "My only regret about his columns is that he had not yet discussed any of his own poems. Now it appears to be too late. To paraphrase Pope (or Pinsky!), all I can say is, 'They had no poet and...I wrote a letter,'" wrote a reader from Middleburg, Virginia. The editor responded, "In case you missed the allusion, Alexander Pope's exact phrase was: 'They had no poet and died.' That certainly captures how we at Book World feel about the importance of poetry...for all who are curious about the parenthetical in the first letter, here is how Pinsky so masterfully echoes the line from Pope."

It was my mother's birthday, so after Hebrew school we went downtown with my parents. First we went to the National Museum of Natural History's new butterfly exhibit, which was very pretty but a bit unimpressive after all the wonderful butterfly exhibits we've seen at Brookside Gardens over the years. The flowers are very pretty and it's easy to see the butterflies up close compared to the National Zoo's butterflies behind the Invertebrate House, but it's a very small, crowded space, not big and spacious like the zoo and Brookside.

We had gelato in the museum, then walked to the US Botanic Garden at the opposite corner of the National Mall to see the Alphabet of Orchids, which is also beautiful. And since we passed the National Gallery of Art on the way back to where we'd parked, we went to see In the Forest of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet, an exhibit on the plein-air paintings and photography of 19th century French landscape artists. The kids were pretty fried at this point and wanting to go home and play Brawl, so I didn't get to look at much in detail, but the Corot and Rousseau paintings were gorgeous, and there were some early Monet haystacks and a couple of Renoir paintings of people among the trees.


I see that 10,000 BC made lots of money over the weekend despite being historically nonsensical. Although we did not see much of the animal history at the Smithsonian, after dinner, which apaulled made for my parents (Chicken Riesling, dill potatoes, asparagus, flourless bittersweet chocolate cake), we did watch Journey to 10,000 BC on the History Channel, which was very interesting...which humans arrived first in North America, how they survived a mini Ice Age, what happened to the food chain when mammoths became extinct. Then we watched the news (BBC so we could see the Spanish and Pakistani elections rather than Hillary's big-mouthed husband and Matt Damon's pregnant wife) and highlights of the embarrassing Maryland/Virginia game. And I have hamantaschen -- apricot, cherry, raspberry and chocolate -- so life is good.

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