Partita for Sparrows
By Brenda Hillman
We bury the sparrows of Europe
with found instruments,
their breasts light as an ounce of tea
where we had seen them off the path,
their twin speeds of shyness and notched wings
near the pawnbroker's house by the canal,
in average neighborhoods of the resisters,
or in markets of princely delphinium and flax,
flying from awnings at unmarked rates
to fetch crumbs from our table half-spinning
back to clefs of grillwork on external stairs
we would descend much later;
in rainy neighborhoods of the resisters
where streets were taken one by one,
where consciousness is a stair or path,
we mark their domains with notched sticks
of hickory or chestnut or ash
because our cities of princely pallor
should not have unmarked graves.
Lyric work, flight of arch, death bridge
to which patterned being is parallel:
they came as if from the margins
of a painting, their average hearts half-spinning
our little hourglass up on the screen.
With "Partita for Sparrows," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, Hillman "makes the poignant act of burying dead sparrows in Europe embody the persistence in that continent -- scarred by tyranny -- of dangerous class hierarchies that foment unrest." Karr adds that in Hillman's poetry, "You'll enter a mythic landscape fresh with meaning...in the final lines, the birds' hearts evoke our own computer screens' whirling hourglasses. History implodes to make past and future equally alive. Time stops. There's alchemy in these words." The poem can be found in Lyric Postmodernisms: An Anthology of Contemporary Innovative Poetries.
It was a cloudier, cooler day on Sunday than on Saturday but still a beautiful day to be out doing things. We got up early -- well, relatively early since we gained an hour of sleep last night -- and went down to the National Museum of the American Indian, which is celebrating los Dias de los Muertos this weekend. We saw sugar skulls being decorated and paper flowers being constructed, tasted pan de muertos, watched some of the dancing, and admired the ofrendas. Then we had lunch in the utterly wonderful museum cafe -- I am never eating in any other Smithsonian museum again, this one serves indigenous cuisines of the Americas including pumpkin apple soup, salmon in northwest berry sauce, bison burgers, southern corn-wrapped peanut chicken, seaweed-wrapped halibut, beet mashed potatoes, cranberry rice, pan bread, mole chicken, and I don't even remember everything else! After that we visited through the top floor gallery on native cosmologies and world-views and how those clashed with those of Europeans, plus we stopped at the museum store.
Marigolds to help guide spirits were in evidence in many of the displays...
...and there were golden flowers and harvest fruits on the altars, which also included clay and papier-mache skulls.
Staff members were demonstrating the molding and decoration of sugar skulls.
Pan de muertos was displayed on the ofrendas...
...as well as outside at the demonstration by the Akaloa Fire Pit of how tortillas, mole, and other foods are made.
Los Tecuanes, from Acatlan de Osorio in Puebla, Mexico, performed a dance involving Death, the Devil and several animal spirits.
And here is one of my favorite calacas...Elvis!
I was planning to go celebrate Samhain with vertigo66 at beeej's house, but the former's husband threw his back out so she couldn't go, and then while we were walking around Theodore Roosevelt Island to work off some of the Halloween candy everyone in my family has eaten, my kids started complaining. So instead we came home so they could rest and I folded laundry while watching Unbreakable, which I not only had never seen before but somehow was not spoiled for. What a well-done film, especially the scene with the boy and the gun. In the evening we watched The Simpsons -- not the best Treehouse of Horror, but we laughed enough that we got in the mood to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown afterward. Then we watched the Bela Lugosi Dracula, which is so campy that it's impossible not to snicker.
It would have been a nice relaxing evening, but we found out that a boy from older son's school was murdered on a metro bus, which is depressing enough to ruin any evening. This is the second gun incident this school year -- it really freaks me out. At least he has no school the next two days while they investigate; on Monday the teachers have conferences and end-of-marking-period meetings, and on Tuesday the schools are closed for the election. We are going to go to various state parks and admire the falling leaves, because I can't handle any more pre-voting stress!