The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

By Michael Milburn

When Nancy brings the video out,
years of brittle spools copied onto
one cassette, we all watch.
Dad sits too, blind, a book-on-tape
shouting through headphones,
pausing to grumble questions
when we laugh or exclaim.
"There's Grandpa," my son calls,
and there he is: hair slate black,
belly like a washboard. "That must be
Bermuda, 1950," Mom murmurs.
He's thirty-two, all movement,
slapping a polo ball,
clowning with a shotgun
as he picks off clay pigeons
flung into the sky. And here
he nestles a newborn
for the camera. "You look like me,"
my son says, nudging me.
When the screen switches abruptly
to snow, Mom sighs and I flick it off. The boy sniffles
and goes over to rest his head
on the swelled stomach. "Poor Grandpa,"
he whispers. The old man
touches his hair. "Hello, small grandson," he says, startled,
swinging his head toward the mute t.v.
"Is it over?"


"Nearly 30 years after my daddy's death, I can still miss him with throat-clenching force," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "As a child, I shadowed him through pool halls, but -- with time and alcohol -- he eventually dwindled into a form that fit nowhere except on a barstool at the Veterans' Club." In the poem above, from his book The Blessings of Motion and Silence, "Milburn captures the slot in a man's life when he lives wedged between an aging father and a blooming son. Here we see the poet running video footage of his once dynamic father, now in decline and lying on a sofa...the poet wants to preserve what's passing, even if only on video (or in print), but the patriarch's senses are shutting down. For the poem to end with the grandfather wondering, 'Is it over?' says -- with understated grace -- how soon and sadly it is."

Our plan for Saturday was to go to the Potomac Celtic Festival, but the weather thwarted that -- because I had a pounding pre-storm migraine that beautifully evaporated with the first thunderclap, and because we could tell the storm was coming at lunchtime and suspected that we would pay over $50 to huddle in a tent in a muddy field instead of listening to the groups we wanted to hear. So we went to Kohl's to get moose and bear dinnerware shorts for older son and cheap sleeveless blouses for me, then to pick up a couple of Father's Day presents and walk around the lake at Washingtonian, and before we got back to the van, the sky opened up. So it wasn't an exciting Saturday but I feel loads better than I did in the morning.

Goslings at Great Falls Park in June.

These are older goslings than the ones we saw at Lake Whetstone last month.

It is illegal to feed the geese in a national park.

Not that that stops the geese from trying to scrounge from picnics.

The goslings at Washingtonian Lake are growing up too.

There were only two this year, even though there were dozens at Lake Whetstone in Gaithersburg; we think the management must have spoiled the eggs.

People do feed the geese here despite signs telling them not to, so there isn't overpopulation and goose poop everywhere.

I was ridiculously excited to read about the 1780 British warship discovered sunk in Lake Ontario. We watched Doctor Who's "Midnight," which I liked better than the "Silence in the Library" two-parter, though I suspect that will be one for the Unpopular Opinion meme. I did not think that the Doctor came off at all well, and that pleased me, although yet another episode with so little Donna in it did not please me at all.

There were a lot of moments I liked at the beginning -- Donna refusing to leave the spa to go on yet another adventure with the Doctor (though I'm sure this is why we're supposed to think more compliant River is a much better girlfriend), the Doctor getting warned that the peanuts may contain nuts, the overstimulation of on-board entertainment -- and some that made me roll my eyes, like the elderly professor telling a much younger companion about the waterfall just the way the Doctor had tried to convince Donna to go with him and the Doctor not seeming to notice the similarities.

I can't decide how I feel about the crazy lesbian who's convinced that her ex-lover is coming to get her at the moment the alien invades, nor about the fact that no one will listen to the black girl but the one other woman of color among a group where the social order follows unnervingly typical patterns -- white men taken the most seriously, even the boy -- I can't decide if it was savvy commentary on the patterns or thoughtless reproduction of same. They are in a place of absolute sterility, supposedly no life whatsoever can survive outside the leisure palace (crossing Midnight but never touching it, as the professor says), and the superficial interactions feel just as sterile, even when the Doctor tells the professor that there may be more in heaven and earth than his philosophy etc.

It's fun to see the juxtaposition of horror movie setup (strangers in an isolated haunted house with a demon inside) as the Doctor tries to keep his "but it's a wonderful new thing!" M.O. when all the others know that, as in Galaxy Quest, the new thing is going to bite someone in the ass. Donna couldn't be with him, I think, because if a companion was threatened, he'd be far more likely to be wary and protective (he didn't care that the Dalek-human hybrids were new things!) and she'd have done a better job negotiating among the others in the car than he did. She also would have told him off when he bragged about being handsome and smacked him around when he announced that he was the clever one and shouted at him when he declared that he couldn't let what was in Sky take over him because he was special. I can't help but feel glad when he gets taken over, because it's his own failure to communicate that's responsible far more than the limitations of the people he's with, though again I don't know if it was the intent of the writers to make that clear or if it's my perception.

And then, because it was On Demand, we watched The Last Temptation of Christ, which I haven't seen since it first came out on VHS tape two decades or so ago. I'm not going to touch the theology because I know how controversial it is and I'm not a Christian, but I really love it as a film, though it's no more my personal version of Jesus than it is the people who protested it when it first came out. (I must admit that I did snicker this time when Jesus was arguing with Satan in the form of the snake in the desert and Paul said, "He's a Parselmouth!") I'm terribly fond of Paul of Tarsus inventing the Jesus narrative, and the commentary on the New Testament suggested therein. And I love Jesus the doubter, unsure of his divinity because he can't be sure of it and fully experience the human condition.

Happy Father's Day if you have a father, are a father or want to celebrate a father; we are going to my in-laws' to see the new visitor center at Gettysburg National Battlefield and for a cookout!

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