The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

User's Guide to Physical Debilitation
By Paul Guest

Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered caregiver
stirring dark witch's brews of resentment
inside what had been her happy life,
should turn to page seven where you can learn,
assuming higher cognitive functions
were not pureed by your selfish misfortune,
how to leave the house for the first time in two years.


"Real life has enough horror without adding ghouls and ghosts to the mix," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Here's a scary fact you'll want to know about Paul Guest: At the age of 12, he was permanently paralyzed in a bike accident. That's the least interesting aspect of his work, but it did produce this startler," she adds. "It's both agonizing and funny for an invalid to joke about his 'bruising marathons of bird watching.'" The poem is from Guest's upcoming release from Ecco, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge.

Our plan for Saturday was to go hike on Catoctin Mountain and visit some sites in Thurmont and Emmitsburg, but the weather forecast was for hard rain and high winds, so we figured it wasn't the best day for it. It was already raining by the time Daniel got back from volunteering at Hebrew school, and by the time we left the house, it was pouring. We stopped at Halloween Adventure because Adam had decided that he had to have a scythe to go with his Grim Reaper costume, then Daniel decided he needed one too -- I don't know how they think they are going to carry flashlights, candy bags, and scythes, but I guess that's not my problem -- then we went to get haircuts and stopped at CVS, Giant, and finally Blockbuster to rent Iron Man. So yeah, not a very exciting day!

This is Mount Vernon's gristmill, which is actually three miles south of the mansion. Washington used to own all the property between them, but now there are housing developments along Route 235 in the middle.

The site for the water-powered mill -- advertised the most authentically restored 18th-century mill in the country -- was chosen for the stream that feeds the 16-foot water wheel.

This is the only operating Oliver Evans Automated Milling System in the U.S. -- the third U.S. patent ever granted.

The miller explained how the valuable quartz millstones brought from France ground fine white flour.

Then he demonstrated how corn was ground using less expensive German millstones.

The wheel turns the stones, which grind the corn...

...using this mechanism to drive the mill.

And here is the cornmeal, some of which can be purchased in the gristmill's shop.

The rest of my family had seen Iron Man before, but I hadn't. I'm not the biggest fan of superhero/comic book adaptations in the first place, and nothing I'd heard about this one made me feel particularly enthusiastic. I really don't understand the Robert Downey Jr. adoration, I've found him adequate in everything I've seen him in but not particularly gifted, and the whole reformed-bad-boy thing leaves me cold. I'd have to say the same for Tony Stark. Adam said he thought Terence Howard would make a better Iron Man than Iron Man, and maybe he's right. Plus the first half hour of the film was so misogynistic that I almost stopped watching; as much as I dislike Gwyneth Paltrow and thinking it was her own fault for taking the role, I was cringing for her character.

I know several people who found the film charmingly slashy, but when men are bonding because every single woman they meet is scripted as a bimbo, a bitch, or both, it disgusts me much too much to find anything delightful about the male bonding. Then there's the science -- forget the icing problem, how did he avoid the bends? My kids wanted to watch the deleted scenes, and I am so sorry Jeff Bridges' New World Order speech was cut; if we're going to get vague, hypocritical messages about imperialist Americans (without the U.S. government actually being implicated because it's just a few evil extremist rogue capitalists), we deserve to get it wrapped in over-the-top political rhetoric.

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