By Nicanor Parra
Translated by William Carlos Williams
Since man's life is nothing but a bit of action at a distance,
A bit of foam shining inside a glass;
Since trees are nothing but moving trees;
Nothing but chairs and tables in perpetual motion;
Since we ourselves are nothing but beings
(As the godhead itself is nothing but God);
Now that we do not speak solely to be heard
But so that others may speak
And the echo precede the voice that produces it;
Since we do not even have the consolation of a chaos
In the garden that yawns and fills with air,
A puzzle that we must solve before our death
So that we may nonchalantly resuscitate later on
When we have led women to excess;
Since there is also a heaven in hell,
Permit me to propose a few things:
I wish to make a noise with my feet
I want my soul to find its proper body.
From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, in which Mary Karr writes of Chilean poet Parra, "Not all poetry aims for beauty...Parra's antipoetry assaults capital-P Prettiness as frou-frou leftover from an antique age. His language is blunt as a diner waitress's -- non-symbolic, non-lyrical. The antipoem's burlesque charm hits like a nightstick." The above poem "suggests how -- at the molecular level -- we don't so much vanish as change form," something Parra was familiar with in his other career as a physicist. "To call life 'A bit of foam shining inside a glass' evokes both test tube and champagne flute," notes Karr. "Those crude elements become us...the way wood becomes chairs and tables. To 'make a noise with my feet' is a tribal stomp of outrage; for the 'soul to find its proper body' is to meld with the eternal."
We spent Saturday in Baltimore at Mount Vernon Place and the Walters Art Museum, figuring we should do something mostly indoors in case it rained since Daniel is still recovering (and also figuring he might sleep in the car, though he talked the entire way home). I don't think I've been to Mount Vernon Place since I had a piano recital at the Peabody Institute in my teens, so it was all new to me -- you'd think I'd remember that enormous George Washington monument and the huge Gothic church! The Walters Museum is always free and has beautiful collections of Medieval and Islamic art (including lots of weapons and armor that always interest the kids), but this weekend they were having a Family Festival of Exploration and the fabulous Maps: Finding Our Place in the World, touring from Chicago -- including John Smith's map of Virginia, a room-sized three-dimensional model of a Belgian fortified town, Tolkien's original sketch of Minas Tirith on the back of a student exam on Beowulf, and a huge Renaissance map of England with a miniature Stonehenge drawn beside the oddly-spelled label for Amesbury -- was also free!
This enormous book of maps, open here to details of Spain and Portugal, is also in the Chamber of Wonders, which contains a nobleman's collection of exotic natural specimens. This book was created for Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Prussia.
An illuminated prayer book on a velvet pillow from the medieval collection.
Also in the medieval collection, stained glass depicting prophets Habbakuk and Joel. How come no one names their kids Habbakuk anymore?
The museum has several complete sets of armor, a full set of Gusoku armor and this Maximilian armor from about 1510.
Because it was a special family day, there were also pirates demonstrating tricks with weapons...
...and "Sally Ride" visiting with little girls who might want to be astronauts when they grow up, though right now one looks like she's happier being a RenFaire princess.
A statue in the park in front of the Gothic glory Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church.
And right near it, the 160-foot Washington Monument towers over the Lafayette Statue. Baltimore's was the first monument dedicated to the first president, designed by the architect who also erected the Washington monument in DC. This one was completed on July 4th, 1829.
Daniel was pretty drained after walking around the map exhibit and another special exhibit on mapping the cosmos -- photos from the Hubble Space Telescope, including one of the ultra-deep field images looking back 13 billion years almost to the start of the universe -- so we fulfilled a promise to him and Adam and went to find Walt's Cards in Dundalk, a suburb along the water up I-95. We got slightly lost because Paul had the old address written down and it wasn't there anymore, but Google Maps saved us and we are now the proud owner of some Magic Sliver cards (or Slither cards?) at bargain prices, or so we are reliably *cough* informed. I had a Blockbuster coupon for a free rental that expired Saturday night and Daniel persuaded me to rent the third Austin Powers movie so we could complete the trilogy, even though he saw it last weekend. I hadn't seen Goldmember before and I think it's actually funnier than The Spy Who Shagged Me -- more direct James Bond references and Tom Cruise playing Mike Myers is worth the price of admission!