The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday

By Wilfred Owen


Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us...
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent...
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient...
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
             But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
             What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow...
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
             But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
             But nothing happens.


Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces -
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
             Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed -
             We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
             For love of God seems dying.

To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
             But nothing happens.


Have spent the entire day at home with Daniel, who still has a bit of a fever and a sore throat, which means that Wednesday will be more of the same. It was fine when he woke up (only about a half hour before noon) and wanted soup, tea, orange juice and The Return of the King extended edition -- apparently he'd watched part of The Two Towers on cable at some point during his trip, probably at 4 a.m. since it seems like he did not sleep at all. But then he wanted to watch the first Pokemon movie, which is not my favorite film of all time, I suppose because it's like comfort TV to him. My only journey out was to take Adam to and pick Adam up from Hebrew school. In between bouts of making soup, toast, etc. I worked a bit on an online photo album -- I realized it might be wise to have an album somewhere with decent-sized versions of my best photos in case I want to show them to anyone in a professional context. This necessitated looking at hundreds of photos plus doing a bit of work on several of the ones taken with my first digital camera, and I'm only through 2003. But hey, if you can think of any photos of mine that I should be sure to include, please tell me -- thanks!

Dancers from a local Japanese dance academy performing at Lakeforest Mall this weekend.

A view from below the Washington Monument...

...and the line of trees between the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin.

The Jefferson Memorial is visible from nearly every point around the water, but sometimes the flowers come between the walkway and the view.

Here are the Capitol Building and Smithsonian Castle on the walk across the National Mall...

These birds were enjoying the puddles left by the rain the night before in front of the Museum of Natural History.

And here are the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument seen from the window driving into Virginia over the 14th Street Bridge.

Boston Legal is finally back, and although this week's was one of its more didactic episodes with two verdicts that I found implausible, I was so happy to have Denny and Alan back that I didn't care (and I forgot to start recording until well into the first half hour, woe, but I am counting on an early DVD release since it will be a shortened season). Melvin "You're a Hoot" Palmer is back, this time representing a TV network being sued by Alan because the daughter of his client was murdered by an ex-boyfriend after she turned down his proposal of marriage on "Dr. Ray, a Jerry Springer-type talk show. Alan tells Denny and Lorraine separately that Melvin reminds him of a punching doll that keeps coming back up smiling; he privately confesses to Lorraine that he had one of those in his childhood and stabbed it, and she concludes that Alan's fear of clowns probably stems from guilt over this incident.

Meanwhile Shirley is visited by an old friend who has been arrested for killing and eating a seal...well, more than one. He's a Vietnam veteran who's been diagnosed as bipolar but has no medical insurance and can't even afford food; he says he killed the seals because he needed the food, and is adamant that he will not plead diminished capacity. With the plight of veterans on her mind, Shirley finds Denny walking around without his trousers on -- he spilled something on them and is more comfortable in just boxers -- and invites him out to dinner. Of course Denny takes this as an opportunity to fall back in love and thinks that if he weeps for her, she'll see what a sensitive man he since he can't cry on command, he has little tubes affixed below his eyes to squirt out tears.

The TV producer says the murdered girl signed a waiver and knew that his TV show stirred up strong emotions, though he gets upset when Alan asks if the producer is saying that she brought on her own murder. Melvin too tries to make it the girl's fault in his closing, saying she chose to turn down a proposal with the cameras rolling. Alan is less concerned with arguing the outrageousness of blaming the victim than with having his say about how far TV has fallen: it took us to the moon, let us cry together when Kennedy was assassinated, helped end the Vietnam War, and now it's all about eye candy, titillation and murders like this that are practically scripted, where the news unit publicizes the talk show and vice versa. Murder, he notes, is good business for television today.

Denny takes a break from practicing to beat the black guy in an interactive boxing game (the next level is a Muslim terrorist) to go out with Shirley, but his overactive tear implants drench her and she leaves in disgust. She's also frustrated with her case, since her client won't allow her to position him as any sort of victim. Shirley upsets him by talking about his being bipolar when questioning a police officer, but the thrust of her argument is that the US protects seals yet not soldiers -- mental illness and financial struggles are in fact the norm, not the exception for returning veterans. When the judge asks if she is asking for special treatment for soldiers, she points out that the federal government prefers to offer her client an expensive jail cell than a meal and says just plain decent treatment would be nice. Although her client repeatedly broke the law, she wins the case.

Alan wins his case too -- 4.5 million dollars for the victim's family, in fact -- though he admits to Denny that he wanted to win as much to shut up Melvin as for the victim, and Melvin cheerfully admits that win or lose, the lawyer gets paid and he will get even more on appeal. Alan's deeper struggle is with the smiling clownlike face of Melvin. When Lorraine gets him a punching bag like the one Alan murdered in childhood, Alan freaks out and Denny shoots it. Denny has wept real tears in front of Carl over having lost Shirley, but he, too, bounces back, and on the balcony when Alan asks if Denny worries that when he dies, people won't truly have known him, Denny says that Alan knows him. Moreover, Denny adds, he loves Alan and he likes Alan just the way he is. And Alan agrees that that's as much intimacy as he needs, no matter how dysfunctional anyone else thinks he is, and even though he has to explain to Denny that "Que Sera, Sera" is not "Que Saran, Saran."

Am too tired for intelligent commentary on McCain, Petraeus or the Lady Vols, which is stupid because I slept relatively late and got no exercise. I think lack of brain exercise must lead to sloth! On Wednesday I shall do the more difficult Sudoku!

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