By Brenda Hillman
a gasp of emeralds.
I thought I felt
the tall night trees
a wait not even
I held my violet up;
It made a signal squeak
lisps of pride;
ah, their little things,
their breath: lungs of a painting,
they swept me
in four ways, their square
plans, as I have made
a good square saying,
ritual of hope
has not been measured—
"At the risk of oversimplification, there's a schism in American poetics: writers who live in the world (so-called lived experience) vs. writers who live by the word," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "Ever read a poem that makes you feel dumb? It's probably by a word-centric writer...I first associated Brenda Hillman's work with word-centric poetry -- postmodern linguistic experiments that often verge (for me) on the impenetrable. But like Wallace Stevens, Hillman imports enough real-life experience to draw me in."
Since my kids had no school on Monday due to county-wide end-of-quarter planning, apaulled took the day off and we went to South Mountain with dementordelta. It was a gorgeous warm afternoon to be outdoors. We went first to Gambrill State Park, where we looked out over Middletown and Frederick and younger son found a tiny ringneck snake. Then we went to Washington Monument State Park, where we had a picnic before hiking up to the monument, at the top of which we saw ladybugs, stinkbugs, vultures and red-tailed hawks. From there we went to walk around the ruins at Gathland, drove past the Ceres Bethel AME Church, and stopped at South Mountain Creamery where we bought some homemade cheese and bread and visited the calf barn. On the way home we stopped at Fox Gap to see the Reno Monument, got a bit lost driving through the woods and discovered the 13th North Carolina Monument as well. It was a really fabulous day!
From the monument looking toward Boonsboro and Antietam. Every time we have been up top over the past several autumns, there have been bird watchers counting migrating raptors.
This is the teahouse at Gambrill State Park atop High Knob. Sadly, it is only open for special events, and the entire park is being winterized -- not even the bathrooms are open.
Son spotted this ringneck snake no more than five inches long at the base of the Frederick overlook at Gambrill.
The mansion of Civil War journalist and successful playwright George Alfred Townsend, near Burkittsville at Crampton's Gap, where there was fighting during the Battle of South Mountain.
GATH, as he was known, built this War Correspondents Memorial Arch in tribute to journalists killed in combat. The Appalachian Trail crosses right in front of it, too.
A turkey in calf barn at South Mountain Creamery, where we saw baby cows ranging from less than a week old to about a month old. There were also chickens inside and outside the barn, dozens of cows in the fields, and a couple of dogs and cats wandering around.
This is monument in memory of the North Carolina soldiers that fought at or near South Mountain on September 14th, 1862. Over four dozen Confederate dead were dumped into a well owned by a local farmer.
Watched The Sarah Connor Chronicles, definitely NOT my favorite episode -- not only do we get more Bible-quoting Cameron, but we get the charming stereotype of a crooked Orthodox Jewish diamond merchant. Also: the thieves stole their diamonds, credit cards, clothes, etc. yet somehow didn't notice their huge-ass guns? Since Heroes wasn't on, we watched the first hour of the SNL presidential retrospective, which was reasonably entertaining though we'd seen nearly all the material before. Then we watched Boston Legal, which is just getting more and more fearless since the writers know this is the last season. And we also get Paul and Denise back this week, which makes me so happy!
Denise wasn't used all that well -- they could have picked any random person to lose to Alan and Denny in the mad cow case -- but it was nice to see her again, and nice to know that she and Brad are together and apparently things are good enough that she's willing to pretend otherwise just to get Alan going. And I suppose Paul wasn't used all that well -- Carl is now taking on his role as the sympathetic senior partner, though he's relatively new to the firm, though Paul was also always the one trying to hold the firm together no matter what stunts Crane and Poole pulled, and he's stuck in that mode this week.
But really, the guest star of this week is the election, anyway. We start with Alan asking Denny who he's going to vote for, promising not to argue about it, then demanding to know just two reasons why Denny is voting for McCain. Denny says salmon and women: if McCain wins, Americans will flee in record numbers to Canada and come up with a way to save the wild salmon, and if McCain wins, women will be depressed and volunteer more, both of which will make them easy: "It's all about spawning. Drill baby drill. You vote your values." Alan is somehow both surprised and horrified by this. Even so, he wants Denny to join him in representing a rancher who is suing the Department of Agriculture because they won't let her test every animal on her ranch for Mad Cow. Denny takes one look at Carol -- Valerie Bertinelli -- and says it will be his mission in life to get her off, though she's not charged with anything.
Meanwhile the partners are about to make a decision about whether to make Jerry a partner in the firm, though Shirley is voting at her vacation home in Colorado because the election will be closer there than in liberal Massachusetts. Jerry admits to Katie, who has been summoned by the partners, that he feels like he deserves to be a partner after being robbed of it, even if it makes him sound like Hillary to say so. Asked awkward questions about Jerry's love life and "people skills," Katie loses her cool with the senior partners, telling them that she sees an old white establishment rather than the progressiveness and tolerance she was told were valued at Crane, Poole & Schmidt. An angry Carl tells Jerry that because of Katie's performance, they wish to speak to him directly, suggesting that he not behave like a pit bull with lipstick.
When Alan and Denny learn that Denise is representing the FDA against their client, they both flirt, then have some more fun when they draw Judge Brown. Carol explains to the judge that she is not allowed to test her animals for mad cow -- other ranchers are afraid she'll put them out of business -- and because mad cow is similar to Alzheimer's, the government doesn't have statistics on how many people may have been infected. Currently ranchers choose which cows to test, so most only test animals that look healthy. Denise points out that only one cow in a million is compromised; Carol asks how anyone would feel if they got the one bad burger. An FDA official testifies that most cattle are slaughtered before the disease is detectable anyway, so really testing is just to make the public feel safe. Alan says that if that's the case, why stop a client from testing? And if the issue is Carol advertising that her meat is safe while other meat isn't, why not ban the advertising rather than the testing itself?
Denise accuses Alan of harassing Judge Brown, whom he has told her in private he can make cower. The judge is furious and Alan is irritated, though he concedes to Denny that it's something he would do. Denny suggests that Alan ask her how Brad is -- he suspects they married under duress when Denise got pregnant. When Denise comes to suggest that the FDA will settle with Carol if she'll stop advertising about testing her cows, Alan does ask about Brad and Denise tells him that Brad is gone. The next time they're in court, Alan apologizes about being flippant about her and Brad but says that now Denise should give Alan a chance. "If only I wasn't married," sighs Denise, teasing Alan, saying that she fudged the facts a bit to make Alan crazy -- the truth is that she and Brad have never been happier. "Time for court!"
Meanwhile, back at the firm, Denny storms into Jerry's meeting with the partners, reminding them whose name is on the door and trying some reverse psychology to bring Jerry among them. When Denny walks out, Paul and others say that these days Denny is a big liability, which inspires Jerry to say that if Denny goes, he goes too. For a moment he whips out his wooden cigarette, declaring that Alan Shore might leave too and maybe Carl -- "We could do a spinoff, it's not like we haven't been approached" -- but when he becomes serious, he says that it's about time the firm include a partner who treats people with kindness and compassion. After the meeting, Carl tells Jerry he did a good job and that the firm has decided to extend an offer of full partnership. When Carl leaves him alone with Katie, Jerry claims that it's not that big a deal, then he cries.
On Election Day, Alan demands to know whether Denny is really going to vote for McCain, saying the consequences may be even bigger than their friendship. He calls Denny's feeble claims about Obama's tax plan are blatant lies, then brings up Palin's incompetence, while Denny insists that Obama doesn't represent any change for the good. The two shout over each other until Alan sarcastically chants, "Maverick, Maverick, Maverick," at which point Denny pulls out a paintball gun and shoots him. Irate, Alan pulls out his own paintball gun and shoots Denny back. This goes on for nearly half a minute, until they are both covered with paint!
Cleaned up and in court, Alan argues the illogic of the federal government prohibiting a company from exceeding safety standards -- this is worse than deregulation, this is deliberately thwarting consumer interests -- and the judge rules in their favor. When Denny suggests a simple toast and a poke with Carol, she suggests that he should be institutionalized. Alan and Denny apologize for their fight and hug, but Alan leaps back when he encounters Denny's erection, which Denny blames on "Valerie" (hee!). When Denise congratulates them, Alan calls her an evil little vixen.
We see members of the firm vote as "This Land Is Your Land" plays -- Carl, Alan, Denny, Paul and Jerry in Massachusetts, Shirley in Colorado -- then we see Alan and Denny on the balcony, where Alan says he's always been a proponent of people being able to discuss politics without getting emotional and wonders how he could have lost his cool so badly. Denny tells Alan to finish his drink, confessing, "I've already crossed my alp," though he won't ever admit it in public -- he doesn't know if he made the right choice, but he's known for the last eight years that he made the wrong one. "I think I love you," says Alan. (I'm thinking the same thing, David Kelley.) Denny scoffs that Alan has always loved him, but Alan insists that he loves him more now. Tomorrow, they agree happily as they smoke, they'll have a new president-elect. "Wow." "Bigger wow."
Next week Shirley and Alan are taking on the issue of underage abortion. Even when I don't agree with David E. Kelley, I love that he's willing to play these things out. Have just watched the Redskins embarrass themselves against the Steelers; time for bed. I'm sure I don't have to remind people, but hey, Americans, don't forget to vote (and I would be happy to tell you yet again why I think you should vote for Obama)! And hey, Californians, don't forget to oppose Prop 4 and Prop 8!