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

Poem for Sunday


Talk

like a nigger now, my white friend, M, said
after my M.L.K. and Ronald Reagan impersonations,
the two of us alone and shirtless in the locker room,
and if you're thinking my knuckles knocked

a few times against his jaw or my fingers knotted
at his throat, you're wrong because I pretended
I didn't hear him, and when he didn't ask it again,
we slipped into our middle school uniforms

since it was November, the beginning
of basketball season, and jogged out
onto the court to play together
in that vision Americans wish for

their children, and the point is we slipped
into our uniform harmony, and spit out GO TEAM!
our hands stacked on and beneath the hands
of our teammates and that was as close

as I may have come to passing for one
of the members of The Dream, my white friend
thinking I was so far from that word
that he could say it to me, which I guess

he could since I didn't let him taste the salt
and iron in the blood, I didn't teach him
what it's like to squint through a black eye,
and if I had to wonder if he would have grown

up to be the kind of white man who believes
all blacks are thugs or if he would have learned
to bite his tongue or let his belly be filled
by shame, but more importantly, would I be

the kind of black man who believes silence
is worth more than talk or that it can be
a kind of grace, though I'm not sure
that's the kind of black man I've become,

and in any case, M, wherever you are,
I'd just like to say I heard it, but let it go,
because I was afraid to lose our friendship
or afraid we'd lose the game -- which we did anyway.

                            -- Terrance Hayes

--------

"Now that Barack Obama is the nominee...it seems proper to introduce Terrance Hayes, a modest young genius whose poems evoke the kind of unity Obama is angling for," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Here Hayes addresses black power in its most spiritual form -- that of forgiveness for the ignorant white friend who stupidly thought he could lob the n-word with alacrity. It's also a poem about friendship and history and the games we stand to lose if we fail to understand each other." The poem is from Wind in a Box, published in 2006.

We are still in Salem visiting Paul's youngest brother and his family, including twin five-year-old boys, a part lab, part pit bull named Sam, and a mostly shy cat named Edmund occasionally called "Vicious Bastard" by his tenants, since he has been known to claw people at random. I was awoken insanely early by a neighbor using an electric saw in the yard after being kept awake most of the night by repeated Union Pacific trains whistling very near the house, so I am a bit unfocused and blathering even more than usual. We had a nice morning, walking to the state capitol and Willamette University, then to the Salem Saturday Market for lunch (teriyaki noodles and water ices, plus blueberry pie for after dinner) and browsing the craft tents. In the evening we had enchiladas and watched The Search for John Gissing which my in-laws had not seen.


The Walk of the Flags, a circle of US state flags at the side of the Oregon Capitol Building.


My nephew Noah playing on the frogs on stilts in the Parade of Animals by Pete Helzer on the capitol grounds.


A statue of beavers, common in the streams and rivers of the state, donated by a Willamette gardening group and displayed in front of a giant sequoia tree.


Here is a front view of the capitol, which my sister-in-law Brooke refers to as "Oregon's state bowling trophy."


Locally grown food and locally made crafts from Willamette Valley vendors are for sale at the Saturday Market, open spring to fall a couple of blocks from the capitol.


In addition to the produce, flowers, baked goods and handmade items, there is live entertainment at the market...


...and live music, including a flautist (do flute players prefer flutist? I am never sure) performing solos at one end of the market and a rock band at the other end.


This stand, Jonah's Pet Beds, sells homemade cat beds shaped like fish. Some had cat fabric patterns and one in the center right had penguins!
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My great accomplishment of the day was managing to download Doctor Who's "Journey's End," which I liked though did not love (like much of the season, the promise exceeded the execution) yet was very pleased to be able to see nonetheless, as my entire family was most anxious to learn the fate of the Doctor and everyone else. It really irritates me that when Jack is called upon to make a sacrifice for the Doctor, he gets eternal life, while when Donna is called upon to make a sacrifice, she gets to be the tragic heroine of Flowers For Algernon -- we're supposed to look on and pity the poor shallow girl she has become once again with a sort of condescension we're not expected to feel for the Retro Doctor, who after all gets Rose as HIS consolation prize.

There are several dozen little things I love about this episode, and I don't want to discount the pleasures of those: Jackie and Mickey fighting Daleks, then letting themselves get arrested to find Rose when Sarah Jane (who gives Mickey that lovely greeting) comes up with the idea! Jack's flirting with Mickey and Sarah Jane ("that's 'beefcake'") and Sarah Jane and Rose's enthusiastic greeting in the middle of disaster! Rose admiring Martha's style even as the Doctor is panicking about the Osterhagen Key (one of the silliest sci-fi ideas ever set in this century)! Gwen and Ianto's fatal bullets going all Matrix/Abyss because of Tosh's brilliance! The Crucible, a Death Star that works on the entire universe! The hand growing a Doctor and Donna's first observation being, "You're naked!" And Jack, upon hearing that there are currently three Doctors: "I can't even tell you what I'm thinking right now!"

But are we supposed to buy this as a happily-ever-after for Rose and her genocidal boyfriend? I think Martha got far luckier, having met someone who is not the Doctor for her true love! I don't for a second believe that Retro Doctor will ever be happy bound to one place, one time, one person...with his ongoing underestimation of Jackie who doesn't even get to help fly the TARDIS, do we really see family dinners in his future? And diapers? And having to face the fact that the universe can get by without him? He's closer to the guy from "The Impossible Planet" than the guy he is now, the one who couldn't have a serious conversation about settling down. Won't he be wondering about his Now Lost Forever Great Future Love, River Song? (Incidentally, if I had written Whofic and I had created a Great Future Love for the Doctor and given her the name "River Song," is there a person reading this who would not have rolled her eyes and suggested that I change it to something less Captain Kirk-Era Mary Sue?)

As for Rose, who put all of her AU Torchwood's energies into working my way back to you, babe, is she really going to be as blooey in love with the man and his angst now that he hasn't got the best ride in the universe and she'll be faced with the selfishness that can be partially excused by his singularity when he's saving Earth? It's the soppy fan fiction ending that I'm sure has been written better by fans yet I've never wanted to read it, because that's not who either of them are, or at least who they were when I loved them. Because I really loved Rose, and I loved the mutual regard she shared with the Doctor...not because she was his caretaker/nursemaid/sweetheart or whatever Doc1 was suggesting she become to Doc2. And what does she get in exchange...a man who'll whisper sweet nothings instead of refusing to say them altogether? No wonder she's still looking with longing after the blue box. He'll be more bitter than the grim Jack of Torchwood, or else he won't be the Doctor at all and Rose will be the bitter one.

So, back to Donna...it's hard to separate the character's strengths and weaknesses from the absolutely phenomenal portrayal by Catherine Tate, and I feel like I probably haven't mentioned that enough all season. I like Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman well enough, but I doubt I'd rush out to see either of them in something else unless I liked the source material or something else drew me to it. I'd watch Catherine Tate in anything. Her performance as David Tennant as the Doctor is just brilliant -- not mocking or broadly comic but bang-on, she had me really believing that the Doctor was in Donna's head. I never wanted the Doctor in Donna's head -- I wanted Donna to be brilliant and save the universe all by herself -- but I'm not sorry the storyline went that way just because we got to see that acting job.

And I love Gwen calling Jack and Sarah Jane calling Luke and the Torchwood team and K-9 pulling off the restoration of Earth. And Donna tearing Sarah Jane away from Jack so she can hug him herself. But it's Rose, not Donna, who is the saviour of universes, because it's Rose, not Donna, who changed the Daleks so much in the first place that one of them sabotages their creator to save the Doctor and the universe. And for everything Rose doesn't get, she gets a shadow Doctor for her very own. How come Mickey can swap universes again, but not Rose? Why not exile the genocidal Doc to the AU but let Rose stay on the TARDIS...or keep the genocidal Doc around like the Doctor was planning to do with the Master? Well, it's because Davros is right and the Doctor makes people into weapons and changes them into people who'll blow up the world. Even DoctorDonna isn't Donna...we're supposed to think she's better, but she's changed. And then she's changed back, a grotesque use of the reset button. As Rose says, it's still not right.

So is the Doctor on life number eleven now, or did the partial regeneration not count? I suppose it was nice of them to show us the Dalek extermination conflagration we only got to hear about previously, though I think Christopher Eccleston's monologue about watching them burn was actually more powerful than seeing the great exploding sequences. So I must confess that I won't be sorry if we get three really excellent movies next year instead of 13 uneven and self-congratulatory episodes.
Tags: trip west 08
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