The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

The Star Market
By Marie Howe

The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday.
An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout
breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.

Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and
hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:
shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market

had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in
with the rest of them—sour milk, bad meat—
looking for cereal and spring water.

Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept

out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands
and knees begging for mercy.

If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought,
could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?


I posted that poem last July after it appeared in The New Yorker, and am posting it again because it appears in Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. In this poem, writes Mary Karr, Howe veers "between what's sacred and our routine aversion to suffering. While the store in her poem is crowded with affliction, its guiding star ultimately evokes the Nativity...Howe imagines the outcasts in ancient times crawling from public baths begging for mercy. Then she asks herself -- even if Christ promised her healing -- 'Could I bear the look on his face?' How often we deny each other compassion, though it's available to us daily and is the truest miracle of every faith."

It was a cold, dark, very rainy Sunday and all of us feel like we're getting colds, so we didn't do much that was exciting. I got a four-load laundry half-done. At halftime during the Redskins game, we went out to World Market -- with stops at the going-out-of-business Linens & Things and nearby Toys R Us, though we bought nothing in either place -- primarily to get simmer sauces. Bombay potatoes and pumpkin curry, though I'm afraid a Nestle Aero bar and some holiday gifts snuck into the bags. We made it home in time to see the Redskins lose. Then I got a lovely surprise: cidercupcakes had to drive her mother to work, so she was up in my direction and came over for dinner. We watched the Colbert Christmas special while apaulled made the Bombay potatoes, chicken korma and rice. So I had a delightful relaxing early evening. *g*

There are currently four sloth bears at the National Zoo -- a mother, father, and child, plus a girlfriend for the young male bear.

They don't get as much publicity as the pandas, but as you can see, they are just as playful.

They live in the new Asia Trail area, though when the baby was born, they were over with the other bears near the American woodland animals.

Balawat, who was born at the zoo in January 2006, lives with Khali, an adult female.

Balawat's mother Hana and father Merlin are living separately, as neither has shown any interest in mating again.

Despite their name, sloth bears do not hibernate and are active through the winter.

They love to climb on the rocks...

...and, apparently, play with paper bags as well as the balls and toys put in to stimulate them.

After dinner we watched Futurama's screamingly hilarious "Anthology of Interest II" -- the one where Bender wants to be human, Fry wants to be in a video game and Leela wants to be in The Wizard of Oz. We also watched the ninth episode of Merlin, "Excalibur," which was definitely the best yet -- finally some backstory on why Uther hates magic and what's going on with Nimue -- I must confess I am really happy to see Michelle Ryan back on TV. And in addition to several women characters I like though I really wish they were given more to do, I love the male bonding. I mean, Merlin adores Arthur without it being at the expense of anyone's official girlfriend -- as Gwen tells Merlin, "You're proud of Arthur...I can see it in your face." And that Merlin later tells Uther there's a bond between himself and Arthur, which makes Uther glad. Oh, young love.

I'm not even trying to match characters to their mythological equivalents anymore -- if Mordred isn't the son of Arthur and Morgana, then I don't see how it can matter if Tristan was Igraine's brother and Owain and Pellinore died fighting his immortal wraith. I don't understand why they didn't want to stick with the typical secret of Arthur's birth -- that his mother was married to another man who was still living when Arthur was conceived -- but I appreciate the logic of explaining that Uther hates magic by having Arthur created by magic which then cost him Igraine. How much sadder, then, to have Uther admit to Nimue that he wishes she had never allowed Arthur to be conceived, and later Arthur tell his father that he always thought he was a great disappointment to him. I hope we get to see more of the librarian and the Chronicle of Beltane -- is he going to end up being a Taliesin figure, since Gaius apparently is not? (And why was Uther ready to kick Gaius out of his job a week ago when Gaius is the only other person who knows the secret of Arthur's birth?) I'm amused that Excalibur is serving as the One Ring, "what is made cannot be unmade," though that phrase could apply to Arthur's birth as well.

Later in the evening, we put on Charlie Wilson's War, though I got distracted early on by laundry and the kids going to bed, and never fully got into it as a result. The performances were all excellent (the supporting cast as much as Hanks and Roberts, especially Hoffman and Adams), but the dialogue was very Sorkinesque and at times that was distancing; I always hated it when The West Wing became more about sounding clever than actually offering substantive commentary. Plus Mike Nichols worked so hard to make the film an allegory of modern US political meddling that despite all the little details to remind us of when it was set, I kept forgetting and getting confused. I think I need to watch it again when I'm paying full attention.

Happy December!

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