The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
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Poem for Sunday


The Abnormal Is Not Courage
By Jack Gilbert


The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German
Tanks on horses. Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers,
A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace.
And yet this poem would lessen that day. Question
The bravery. Say it's not courage. Call it a passion.
Would say courage isn't that. Not at its best.
It was impossib1e, and with form. They rode in sunlight,
Were mangled. But I say courage is not the abnormal.
Not the marvelous act. Not Macbeth with fine speeches.
The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment.
It is too near the whore's heart: the bounty of impulse,
And the failure to sustain even small kindness.
Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being.
Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality.
Accomplishment. The even loyalty. But fresh.
Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus. But Penelope.
The thing steady and clear. Then the crescendo.
The real form. The culmination. And the exceeding.
Not the surprise. The amazed understanding. The marriage,
Not the month's rapture. Not the exception. The beauty
That is of many days. Steady and clear.
It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.

--------

"Jack Gilbert draws from history when he goes from a warrior's fevered heroics to the average wife's daily fidelity in 'The Abnormal Is Not Courage,'" writes Mary Karr in this week's Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Those overly punctuated lines make you stop and start, forcing you to inhabit a mind formulating an opinion, one phrase at a time. And then he delves into what he means." The poem is from Monolithos: Poems 1962 and 1982.

We spent a nice day with my kids and parents after my mother and Daniel got back from Hebrew school in the morning. We started at the annual Swedish Bazaar at St. James Church, which has homemade baked goods and imported food and gifts for sale as well as smorgasbord for lunch with Swedish meatballs and lingonberry soda. Then we went to the National Museum of Natural History, where the Washington Revels were performing sea chanteys to celebrate the opening of the Sant Ocean Hall, beginning downstairs by the shops and food, then moving up the escalator to the main gallery and back to the exhibit on life at sea. We lost my mother and Adam for a bit while we were listening to them sing "Jolly Roving Tar," "Drunken Sailor," "When I Was a Fair Maid," and many others. Then we walked through part of the enormous fossil gallery and bought Adam an ammonite.


The Washington Revels perform at the top of the escalator in the Sant Ocean Hall.


They started downstairs near the gift shops...


...and made their way upstairs to the Going To Sea display at the rear of the hall, which looks at the history of exploration and navigation.


They had a decent-sized crowd in each place, though the museum was crowded in general.


In addition to singing, the Revels played a few traditional instruments and did a bit of dancing.


There were people in traditional clothing at the Swedish bazaar, too.


Of course there were Dalahasten and straw goats...


...and dolls and tomten.


Instead of posting my annual Scott's Run family photo here, I will link to them over the years at my web site.</center>

We were going to hike at Scott's Run, but it was late enough when we left downtown that we only made it to the first creek crossing before we decided to leave before it got any darker. We stopped at Blockbuster to rent Get Smart, which we watched at my parents' house after ordering pizza. I thought the movie was very funny -- I generally like Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, I thought James Caan was hilarious as George Bush the President, I enjoyed all the comedian cameos, I was happy to see Masi Oka as a super-nerd, and although the plot was quite predictable, there were enough funny moments on the way to the climax to make it entertaining. Plus it was filmed in and near many places we've visited in the past couple of weeks -- the Smithsonian Castle, the World War II Memorial, the Capitol Building, and the Museum of Natural History where we were standing in front of the elephant hours before it turned up in the film.

I mostly followed football on espn.com rather than on a screen, though we saw most of the Texas Tech-Oklahoma State game (I rooted for Texas Tech, I'm still mad at the entire state of Oklahoma for such die-hard support for McCain). I'm sorry Penn State lost, sorry Alabama won, and beyond that, I couldn't really care who ends up number one!
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