The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Tuesday


Homer's Seeing-Eye Dog
By William Matthews


Most of the time he worked, a sort of sleep
with a purpose, so far as I could tell.
How he got from the dark of sleep
to the dark of waking up I'll never know;
the lax sprawl sleep allowed him
began to set from the edges in,
like a custard, and then he was awake,
me too, of course, wriggling my ears
while he unlocked his bladder and stream
of dopey wake-up jokes. The one
about the wine-dark pee I hated instantly.
I stood at the ready, like a god
in an epic, but there was never much
to do. Oh now and then I'd make a sure
intervention, save a life, whatever.
But my exploits don't interest you
and of his life all I can say is that
when he'd poured out his work
the best of it was gone and then he died.
He was a great man and I loved him.
Not a whimper about his sex life --
how I detest your prurience --
but here's a farewell literary tip:
I myself am the model for Penelope.
Don't snicker, you hairless moron,
I know so well what faithful means
there's not even a word for it in Dog,
I just embody it. I think you bipeds
have a catchphrase for it: "To thine own self
be true, . . ." though like a blind man's shadow,
the second half is only there for those who know
it's missing. Merely a dog, I'll tell you
what it is: " . . . as if you had a choice."

--------

First things first: GO DENNIS KUCINICH! I don't care if he can't make it stick, and if the same people who tried to use his proceedings against Cheney to make the Democrats look bad bury it in a couple of days. I don't even care if Obama refuses to comment because it's the safe thing to say. I just want all those 35 counts right there on the Congressional record and on the front page of every newspaper. I rewatched the end of Recount with the kids tonight because they had to go to bed last night and wanted to see how it ended, and when Gore made the speech before the Supreme Court about how Florida law protects the intent of the voter over the voter's following directions, I wanted to smack some heads in the Democratic party and point out that with their delegate shenanigans, this season they were the ones violating that principle. And then I listened to Kucinich reading out the charge that Bush's people unlawfully impeded African-American voters...of course it had to be someone like Kucinich, Pelosi's been too busy protecting her cronies and pet projects, oh god we need political reform and it's clearly not going to come from the Republicans.

In general it was kind of a weird Monday. Because we had one vehicle in the shop, for what turned out to be $850 in repairs to the air conditioner and compressor -- ugh -- Paul worked from home in the morning so that one of us could go pick up Daniel at midday, since the kids are supposed to be picked up after their last final exam each day. Then Paul was going to go in to work, but the air conditioning in his building wasn't working right and one of the execs told him to keep working from home for the afternoon. So while he worked, I ran out to CVS and Giant to get stuff he needed to make strawberry shortcake for my parents. We had dinner with them at a diner after they returned from my sister's in New York, then dessert at our house. No sooner had they gotten home than my mother found out that an out-of-town relative is in the hospital, so we are all waiting to hear exactly what's going on and worrying about him.


Addra gazelle in the savanna of the African Journey exhibit at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Those are imitation termite mounts near the animals.


Those dark shapes in the long grass...


...are helmeted guinea fowl, which live throughout Africa from near the Sahara to the southernmost regions.


This very warm ostrich is the newest addition to the zoo, spending its first day in a pen with rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?) and nervous about going anywhere near them.


Given the temperatures, the rhinos were perfectly happy to spend most of the day ignoring the new ostrich and sleeping in the mud...


...though they braved the late afternoon sun to go looking for food.


Meanwhile, the cheetah did what cats do best when they're warm or bored or tired or annoyed or content.
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So having read lots of people snarking at other fans on all sides of the spectrum about "Forest of the Dead" in particular and women on Doctor Who in general, I wanted to clarify some of my rather irritable off-the-cuff comments from the other night. It isn't that I don't like River Song. Superficially, I find her quite appealing -- her sense of humor, her fearlessness, her self-confidence, her apparent sentimental side. But I don't know River Song nearly well enough to say on any sort of meaningful level whether I like her or not. And that's the problem. I feel like the great and powerful bond we're supposed to accept between her and the Doctor -- a bond, apparently, that will be shaping his relations with potential intimate partners from here on out, since he hasn't officially even met her yet -- is a classic case of bad storytelling, telling-not-showing. We've only had a few minutes of her in a single installment; to be hit over the head with her as one of the great loves of the Doctor's life, whom we must find worthy of that honor, feels innately wrong to me.

There were already women I like a great deal who were apparently deemed somehow less worthy than River Song to be one of the great loves of the Doctor's life. I don't object to an attraction, even if it's one he didn't feel with the others. Attraction is superficial; if River is more the Doctor's type than Martha or Rose or Donna, if he prefers archaeology degrees or frizzy hair or a birthdate beyond the 20th century, whatever surface thing draws him to River, that's fair enough. And if we'd seen only that level of attraction, you wouldn't have heard me complain so much. There's innately a problem with River knowing that she's a major significant other for the Doctor when he doesn't and we don't, though. Not only is it lazy storytelling, but it's bound to create the same kind of resentment I'd feel if a total stranger -- even a really attractive, appealing total stranger -- came up to me and said I was going to be his lover one day. First of all, what about all the significant people already in our lives? And second of all, even for me, someone significantly less commitment-phobic than the Doctor, how can there not be a sense of intrusion and panic, a loss of autonomy that just feels wrong?

I know there's been a lot of anger about the ending, where, after her time with the Doctor, River settles for domestic bliss with the same not-real children (plus one real one) that Donna gave up. I don't have any objections to River ending up a domestic queen; for all we know, given how little we do know, she is a domestic queen and her time with the Doctor is an anomalous break from what she really wants out of life. If I ran off with the Doctor, it would be with the clear understanding that I was eventually going to want to return to my domestic life. So it's not like I judge River badly for her manufactured happy ending. I just want better evidence for whoever River is, some consistency, some reason I should find her appealing as a match for the Doctor over someone like Martha, who was spurned so directly. Martha is clever, educated, self-confident, enthusiastic about travel, practical in a crisis. Rose is a bit young, and Donna's a bit abrasive for me to think about living with, but they're certainly as worthy of love as River Song, and in an episode where we get told that being brilliant and unloved is the key (for women) to unlocking the secrets of the universe, it's very unpleasant to have this somehow-more-worthy stranger shoved at the Doctor.

Like I said, I don't fault the Doctor for not falling bonkers in love with any of his previous Companions, not even Sarah Jane, whom I think is the most awesome thing ever. But if you want to sell me on River, you have to give me something more on what he sees in her than the fact that he already proved his love in some future we haven't seen yet. And you have to give me a bigger clue what kept her there beyond the desire to travel with him and see the universe. I can certainly see falling in love forever and ever with the TARDIS, and with the Doctor as tour guide to the universe, but River went on about his status as tragic hero, the depth of his loneliness and all that stuff we've had hammered over our heads for three seasons now, which I gather was not an innate part of Doctors 1-8 to anything like this degree.

My good friend in London, who has watched the franchise since the First Doctor, said she had worked out the "female=dead" equation since she was ten years old; she said that while she always knew, as RTD said, that the program was about the Doctor and not whoever passes through in the TARDIS with him, the Doctor wasn't originally a superhero but someone who had accumulated his immense accumulated knowledge, experience, and technological skills. He could regenerate under very specific circumstances but there was none of this snapping his fingers to open the TARDIS type comic book behavior. Now he is a badly written Romantic hero -- the Byron mode, like Captain Jack, as opposed to the Shelley mode, which gave rise to what Constance Penley wrote about in NASA/Trek, the American Romantic expansive adventuring spirit. My longtime love Captain Kirk is a product of the wagon train fantasy -- not the one based on history where people died horribly of disease and starvation and attacks by natives righteously furious at having their land seized, but the Myth of the Great Open West where anything was possible and anyone could discover the next frontier.

Even at his most tragic, mourning a son he barely knew who was killed by Klingons, Kirk doesn't made self-aggrandizing speeches the way the Doctor does over the body of a daughter he knew even less. It's not because Kirk has such respect for the Prime Directive, for sure, nor that he doesn't understand loss, despite his speech about having cheated death; his son falls on a fool's mission to try to bring back the person Kirk loves most in the entire universe. Despite his dozens of lecture-speeches to aliens about peace and cooperation and the way humans would do things, Kirk doesn't delude himself into thinking that he's vastly superior. People are people to him (and women are women, whether they have white skin or green and whether they're 25 or 150).

The Doctor hasn't evolved so much as a man, but as a godlike being. One of the reasons I don't root for romance between him and Rose or him and Martha is that there's too much an element of worship in their admiration of him, the sense that he does things they could never do. (I'm sure Donna feels the same way, but I hope she's too sure about her own likes and dislikes to fall into that same pattern; I did realize this week, though, that maybe I don't know Donna all that well, and maybe she too is dreaming in the end of the husband, kids and house on a quiet street. If so, I hope she articulates it and I hope she gets it.) I feel like the "Lord" element of "Time Lord" has been emphasized to an unnerving degree, in a way I don't recall feeling when watching Tom Baker episodes years ago, when the Doctor was far more quirky and eccentric than so utterly brilliant that mere mortals couldn't compare.
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