The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday

The Last Toast
By Nicanor Parra
Translated by Miller Williams

Whether we like it or not,
We have only three choices:
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And not even three
Because as the philosopher says
Yesterday is yesterday
It belongs to us only in memory:
From the rose already plucked
No more petals can be drawn.

The cards to play
Are only two:
The present and the future.

And there aren't even two
Because it's a known fact
The present doesn't exist
Except as it edges past
And is consumed...
like youth.

In the end
We are only left with tomorrow.
I raise my glass
To the day that never arrives.

But that is all
we have at our disposal.


I spent the day reorganizing my closet -- spring stuff to the front, winter stuff to the back, new stuff on hangars and old stuff in piles for Value Village -- and working on photos for my portfolio, with my only expedition to drive Adam to Hebrew school and look at the newest bunch of spring flowers. I wouldn't dare go anywhere near DC this week anyway with the traffic surrounding the Pope's visit, so here's a bit more from Mount Vernon:

curious_ria asked whether I had any photos of George or Martha Washington played by reenactors, and although we haven't seen the general during our past couple of visits, we did see his wife.

We also saw some of the ladies who help tend her garden clippings.

Recently the restoration staff finished work on the gardener's house, which is now open to the public. He was responsible for keeping records as well as supervising workers.

Here for dementordelta is his chamberpot. Well, probably a reproduction of same. *g*

George Washington kept a small botanical garden that he called his "little garden" where he experimented with growing more exotic plants like pecan and hickory nuts.

In the weeks since we visited in March, the staff completed this new pigpen and moved in this pig!

And the baby lambs are now larger lambs, though still not full-sized or solid-color sheep.

Watched Boston Legal, in which Candice Bergen gave one of the best performances I've ever seen from her -- she had better get another Emmy nomination for this one -- I am terrified that the show will not be back next season, considering that ABC hasn't announced a pickup and is moving it to Wednesdays even though it's been winning its time slot so the network can try to push that women's murder club program because we all know that mediocre Desperate Housewives ripoffs are so much more desirable than biting political and social commentary.

Shirley's father, who has Alzheimer's, has taken a turn for the worse after a leap out a window that may have been a suicide attempt. When Denny accompanies her to the hospital, he does not recognize her and screams in pain when she touches him. She demands that the doctor put him on a morphine drip, but the doctor refuses on the ground that it will hasten her father's death. Denny suggests that she get a court order to end her father's pain, and Shirley agrees but tells Denny that she wants Alan to represent her in this tricky case.

Jerry tells Katie that he's in trouble; during the strike ("What strike?" "It doesn't matter.") he dated a woman who is now suing him for sexual assault on the grounds that he drugged her. When Katie asks whether he did, Jerry explains that he used a hormone as cologne, oxytocin, which inspires trust in people, though he claims he used it mainly so he could trust her. Now he is in love with Dana but she feels violated by the discovery that he lied to and betrayed her in such a manner, and she doesn't know whether she can ever trust anyone intimately, let alone Jerry whom she believed to be so honest.

Carl is visited by an old friend, Bill, along with the mayor of Nantucket. They want -- wait for it -- to build a nuclear bomb, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied their request for plutonium. Lorraine, Clarence and Whitney all think he's out of his mind to take such a case, but Carl says that rich people are colorful, not insane, and if this island full of millionaires wants Crane, Poole and Schmidt to represent them, then the whole team will be researching why Nantucket should get the bomb. He convinces a judge to hear the case by pointing out that the president says Americans should be afraid and Nantucket wants the right to defend itself.

Stupid case first. Katie is surprised when Dana turns out to be a gorgeous redhead, but nervous, because she thinks Dana does have a case. Jerry says he will offer no excuse for his actions, then tries to put a cigarette in his mouth and assume a confident personality but Katie won't let him. Instead he tells Dana that in love, people often try to seem smarter and funnier, and as a man with numerous insecurities and flaws, he couldn't imagine how she could fall in love with him once he fell in love with her, so he did a stupid, unforgivable thing. Dana ends up dropping the suit and meeting him for a date, saying that suing him was an overreaction and she'd like to try again.

Political crack next. Carl gets lots of publicity for Nantucket, which pleases his clients. Denny wants in on the case -- he's always wanted to help blow up another country, it's so American -- and Clarence is delighted to give up his spot on the team, asking Carl if he's spent one moment thinking about what will happen beyond money pouring in if he wins -- doesn't he think Texas would like its own bomb? Lorraine calls to the stand the physicist hired to design the bomb for Nantucket, who is extremely enthusiastic about blowing things up. When Carl asks Bill what it's all really about, since they can't win the case, Bill admits that it's to put the issue on the table during an election year: Bush tore up the arms treaty and it's only right for American communities to be aware of the situation. The judge concedes that Carl and Nantucket are right about the risk to American lives from foreign bombs but adds that he can't believe the answer lies in giving the bomb to Nantucket.

The real story of the night is Shirley's, though it's also Alan's and Denny's. Alan takes the case but warns Shirley that asking a court for permission to put her father to sleep will be extremely difficult. Shirley testifies that her father signed a living will and did not want to be kept alive and in pain, but the hospital's lawyer insists that this is about Shirley's pain, not her father's, which makes her angry -- his broken ribs are real and his anxiety is real. The doctor is sympathetic, saying he would want to do the same if it were his own father, but Shirley's father's physical injuries will heal and it's against the law to give him a morphine drip under such circumstances. Alan asks whether it's possible that Walter Schmidt could be in agonizing pain and unable to express it; he demands to know why the ethical thing to do is to let Walter's brain continue to rot until he suffers seizures.

Carl finds Shirley drinking alone in her office and asks how her day was. The usual, she jokes: going to court trying to kill my father. You? Oh, trying to get Nantucket a bomb. Carl thinks assisted suicide needs backing from a big pharmaceutical company with a magic pill and a lot of money to lobby Congress, since the companies are richer than the Religious Right. When Shirley admits that she misses him, Carl says he misses her too and asks if they should get back together. She doesn't think so, but he promises that he's there for her anyway.

The hospital's lawyer warns of a culture of suicide where teenagers already do it too often and elderly parents start thinking they should spare their children. Alan says a blanket ban on self-deliverance is unreasonable, but the judge says that's for the legislature to decide, not her. In reply Alan says that judges must uphold the right to privacy, so judges must step in and be humane when a gutless Congress refuses to do so. Life may have intrinsic value, but Walter Schmidt's current life does not; his life now is soiling his bedsheets and screaming in pain when the nurse comes to clean him.

Then Alan apologizes for losing his temper, explaining that his best friend has Alzheimer's in very early stages. "He is a great lover of life and will be for some time," Alan adds, saying that even when his friend starts to go, he'll still laugh and fish; he won't know when the day is coming when he'll want to die. He trusts Alan to know, and to safeguard his legacy and self-respect. "And I will," says Alan, as Shirley watches beside him and Denny, unknown to Alan, at the back of the courtroom. "It will be an unbearably painful thing for me, but I will do it, because I love him. I will end his suffering because it's the only decent, humane and loving thing a person can do." Shirley is there because she loves her father, concludes Alan, and is asking the court to show mercy.

The judge replies that she doesn't like playing God and is horrified by the idea of doctors deciding who should live or die, but she sees no evidence of abuse here and agrees that since Walter is terminal and his condition is irreversible, there is no rational reason for not permitting him a humane end. She grants the motion and Alan finds Shirley at the hospital, where her father is already barely breathing. "I don't think anyone's ever really prepared for a parent to die no matter what you think," she says, thanking Alan, telling him that with all his nonsense, she fully expects to have to fire him one day, but she wants him to know that when the day comes, it'll be hard for her. Walter Schmidt's monitors go flat.

Alan and Denny sit on the balcony, where Alan says that Carl is with Shirley and Denny says that he saw Walter: "I saw my future...what lies ahead for me." Alan tries to joke that Denny will die drinking and smoking first, but Denny confesses that he was in the courtroom and heard Alan's closing. "When that day comes, if it comes...we should go to Oregon where it's legal," says Denny, who wants to fish the Mighty Rogue before he dies: "I am the Mighty Rogue." Alan says that Denny's also a lousy fisherman, so it would be unfair of him to make the deal with God that Denny proposes, in which Denny gets to catch a big one before he dies. When Denny accuses Alan of trying to change the subject, Alan replies that he just wants to enjoy his scotch and not think about Denny dying. "So sit there with your cigar and boast." Chastened, Denny asks Alan for a sleepover and Alan says fine. Then they hold hands.

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