The Lives of the Optimist
By Paul Guest
So the jonquils are fooled into flaming up
though it's January. The bricks soak
in heat like ruddy sponges.
Walking home, I hide
within whatever's radiant.
A bird whose name I've never bothered
to learn sings its farewell
to winter. It's January. Tomorrow
we'll grieve. Or the next
day, but not this thawed instant,
not in this false blush
of lilac. In my bones, the old scores
with the earth are laid to rest
and each dyspeptic grudge
blossoms into frantic, sweet, careening
love. In your bones,
the tidal hymns of blood.
This heedless smile once was yours.
So too my hands,
by the tilt of the earth, the white face of a star.
Another from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World," writes Mary Karr. "Guest's humor often disarms me before he ambushes me with longing. Losing a potential love makes his joy in a mid-January burst of spring both funny and sad in this wry poem...Guest's twisting syntax, his poetic phrasing -- 'tidal hymns of blood' -- and his wicked wit about 'each dyspeptic grudge' make more palatable the grief of the lost love. It's her face that blinks past us, I think, disappearing in the white face of a star."
When younger son got home from Hebrew school, dementordelta came over for brunch which Paul made. Then we went downtown with the kids for the Gargoyle Tour at National Cathedral, which was a huge hit with everyone. Even the kids were completely engrossed, though it started with a lecture and slide show about the history of the cathedral and construction of the grotesques on the building. After circling the building looking for such figures as the rattlesnake, the leering workman, the spy camera, the good and wicked grandsons, and Darth Vader, we walked around a bit inside, but there was a service in progress, so although we managed to see the statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the Space Window, Woodrow Wilson's Grave, and the rose windows -- and to hear the wonderful organ -- we couldn't walk through the nave.
I didn't know till today that the forms of the grotesques and gargoyles are supposed to be earthy to contrast with the angelic images inside; they aren't to ward away evil, because the church itself is supposed to do that. (Above, Gluttony, with double chins and fork in hand.)
The original dean didn't want gargoyles, thinking it would make the building seem too Victorian, but later deans decided that a Gothic cathedral should have gargoyles instead of just flowery spouts. (This is a cat and her kitten.)
True gargoyles are always drain spouts designed to carry water away from the roof and the limestone or sandstone that could be damaged by it. The other decorative protrusions are grotesques, which also help splash water away.
Darth Vader, for instance, is a grotesque. In fact, he was the third prize winner in a National Geographic Kids "Draw a Grotesque" contest and was carved to the winner's specifications. He can be found on the north side of the tower where the sun doesn't shine...the "dark side"!
Sorry the Darth Vader and raccoon images are a bit blurry, but this is to give some idea of how high up they're located...and I was shooting without a tripod.
In the quatrefoil behind this grotesque, you can see the mouth of a sea turtle gargoyle meant to represent endangered species. When the cathedral's construction began in 1907, environmentalist President Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance; it and was only just completed in 1990.
Our tour guide claimed that this donkey and elephant do not represent the Democrats and Republicans. We didn't believe him.
We stopped in both the main cathedral store, which is huge -- contains a bookstore, a Christmas store, and religious items from all over the world, from rosaries to Magen Davids to Buddhist prayer beads -- and the gardening-themed gift shop in the Herb Cottage. Then we came home and had cheesecake that dementordelta brought! We weren't too hungry after she went home, so Paul made pumpkin peanut soup, figuring that wouldn't be too filling -- it was awesome though -- and in the evening we watched the first two episodes of Merlin, which younger son had seen a bit of and wanted to watch more. So it was a very lovely Sunday! And the Redskins won, though we weren't around to pay attention to the game! But is it very wrong that I want the Series to return to Tampa Bay mostly so I can see the ray tank again?