The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Tuesday


The Promise
By Marie Howe


In the dream I had when he came back not sick
but whole, and wearing his winter coat,

he looked at me as though he couldn't speak, as if
there were a law against it, a membrane he couldn't break.

His silence was what he could not
not do, like our breathing in this world, like our living,

as we do, in time.
And I told him: I'm reading all this Buddhist stuff,

and listen, we don't die when we die. Death is an event,
a threshold we pass though. We go on and on

and into light forever.
And he looked down, and then back up at me. It was the look we'd pass

across the kitchen when Dad was drunk again and dangerous,
the level look that wants to tell you something,

in a crowded room, something important, and can't.

--------

I spent a ridiculous amount of time on Monday fighting with MS Word and my printer trying to get labels printed for holiday cards, and the rest of the time fighting with the dryer, which has apparently decided to turn off every 15 minutes for half an hour to cool down, meaning that we need to have it repaired after all. It took all day to finish the wash and nothing is even folded yet. Otherwise, all I accomplished was ordering some Cyber Monday holiday gifts and listening obsessively to the new John Barrowman CD Music Music Music, in which he confirms that he is myself at 14 by performing Barry Manilow's "I Made It Through the Rain" and various other insanely schmoopy songs, not to mention an all-male version of "I Know Him So Well" from Chess. Oh, and I got to see the Moon-Venus-Jupiter conjunction! (Here in honor of Boston Legal is a pic from the Boston Herald.)


Some of the Hog Island sheep at Mount Vernon last weekend were grazing in the field beside the visitor center...


...while others were in the lower fields by the sixteen-sided barn.


This Dominique rooster got out of its coop and was wandering under the trees near the pigpen...


...showing off its shiny green feathers...


...while this one, in the field in front of the slave cabin, was guarding two hens who were lounging in the sunny dirt.


Washington's slaves raised their own poultry, both for eggs to feed their families and for trade with one another.


These Ossabaw Island Hogs ran wild in the woods after being released by Spanish explorers of the 17th century; they were caught and fattened to feed the Washingtons and their servants and slaves alike.


Washington brought Red Devon cattle to work the fields and provide beef, dairy, and fertilizer. This is a very rare, pure breed found at Mount Vernon.
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We had our last Monday night with The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Heroes and Boston Legal, since next week I'll have to miss Heroes for the latter's two-hour finale and then Boston Legal will be gone. *cries* The other two, I must admit, are largely mediocre. I mean, this week we got Sarah Connor pretty much without Sarah Connor, and were instead subjected to John's girlfriend-who-might-be-a-wicked-vixen Riley pulling out a full bimbo routine, and of course John rewards her with sex because that's what high school boys like, right? The Cameron story is so much more compelling and sad, and the guy doesn't even understand at the end that she's trying to help him -- he just wants her to see him whole and normal as opposed to fucked-up like Riley performs like it's admirable. Then there's Heroes, an episode once more redeemed for me by Seth Green and Hiro as the comic relief, although Elle is intolerable -- I cannot even feel sorry for her, nor will I miss her character in the least if she's dead -- and I'm so sick of Nathan's Hitler complex and Sylar's, well, everything.

At least the evening ended with Boston Legal, one of whose subjects was the lack of television for adults over 50, and I'm not ashamed to be a fogey and prefer the show with just those demographics, when I also get an intelligent discussion on what constitutes overmedication and how come our scientists can take Ritalin to stay focused while doing research but our dying patients can't take experimental drugs that might enhance their quality of life. Even though I am one of those wicked viewers who's on the Internet and watching at the same time.

The episode starts with Catherine Piper, having appointed herself Carl's assistant, directing a girl named Margie to Katie when she says she needs a lawyer. While the girl explains to Katie and Jerry that Harvard has rescinded her admission because she told a newspaper that she took Ritalin and Adderall to help her focus during the S.A.T. test (which I thought Harvard no longer required, but whatever), Carl asks Catherine exactly what she's doing there. Shirley is in Cabo for the week -- losing weight for the wedding, Denny tells Adam -- so Catherine tries to pretend to be her older sister, but it doesn't take Carl long to remind her that he knows who she is and why she was fired.

On a less comic note, Denny is at the doctor trying to count backward by sevens from 100 and to name current Red Sox pitchers. The doctor tells an anxious Alan and Denny that Denny is in the early stages of Alzheimer's: "We're not talking about precursors any more, it's here." Back at the firm, Jerry talks to Alan about the Harvard case, and when Alan says that "all the kids are doing it" isn't a very strong argument when the issue is moral character, Jerry wants to know if Alan looks down upon him for "emotional doping" the way he stigmatizes academic doping. Alan points out that Jerry has a specific diagnosed condition, which is different than popping pills to get better test scores, but Jerry takes to heart Alan's words about how people take pills to sleep when they should be reading or masturbating instead.

Margie testifies that she did not cheat but took medicine to help her brain function at its highest levels, citing professors and pilots who admit to taking Adderall to help their performance. She's also a National Merit scholar, the valedictorian and swim team captain, but the Harvard admissions officer insists that her doping was immoral and the admissions committee reserves the right to make admissions decisions accordingly. Meanwhile, Denny has discovered that there's a Russian drug that seems to treat Alzheimer's but it's not FDA approved, so his doctor can't prescribe it. Pfizer has the rights to it, but there will be years of clinical trials -- after which, Denny notes, he'll be dead. Alan promises to ask a judge to intervene.

Catherine visits Carl again, telling him that while she thought about suing him for age discrimination for refusing to rehire her, she wants something to do: her mind is sharp but she can't exactly go skiing. Even the TV networks don't show anything targeted at the elderly; no wonder she's out knocking over convenience stores. Carl thinks this is a valid point and said fine, we'll sue the networks -- being over 50 himself, he wants something to watch. Judge Brown is outraged as usual, but he listens when Carl tells him that Americans over 50 make up the biggest market, spend more money, yet get less than 10 percent of advertising aimed at them. In fact, the only show targeted at that demographic is Bost -- well, Carl says directly into the camera, he can't say it because it would break the wall. But intentionally excluding a class of society is bigotry, and older viewers are fed up with scripted shows with dim-witted sex-crazed young people running around in scrubs. "Give us something to watch, dammit."

During an evening on the balcony, Denny says that the best part of having mad cow is that sometimes he thinks he and Shirley are still together. Alan's lip trembles when Denny says that he'll be okay at the wedding but he's not okay sitting on his ass while his brain rots. When it's time to go in the morning, Alan finds Denny dreaming of Shirley, eyes open, clearly not in the present. But Judge Peyton says that the Supreme Court already ruled on the subject: the potential for abuse with untested drugs is too high, even a dying patient has no constitutional right to an experimental treatment. She rules that the case must be taken up with the Massachusetts Supreme Court. But the state's highest court refuses to hear the case. Alan interrupts Denny practicing walking down the aisle with his Shirley doll to tell him, and Denny suggests that they go to Russia...or Atlanta, since he's heard that the Russians have gotten involved in Georgia. Denny thinks it would be fun to go fishing with Putin, poke him in the eye with a fishing pole and tell him to keep his big ugly head out of Alaskan airspace.

Jerry works all night on the Harvard case, telling Katie that Margie scored in the 99th percentile on a practice test without drugs and she can't afford a prep course which statistically would give her a higher boost than Ritalin. It bothers him that life isn't an even playing field for those who are weaker. Katie tells Jerry that he isn't weaker, he has a medical condition, but Jerry says she doesn't know how hard it is for him to leave the house every morning. In court, Jerry talks about how kids grow up in a pervasive drug culture with parents pressuring them to get into schools like Harvard. Margie didn't get caught, he adds, but was honest about having taken drugs, and it's hypocrisy getting her punished for that. The judge says that he can't solve the brain enhancement issue with one ruling, but he can determine that Margie broke the law taking a pharmaceutical for which she didn't have a prescription; he will not not order Harvard to reinstate her offer of admission.

Catherine flirts with Judge Brown on his lunch break, offering to suck on his ear, which leads the judge to tell Carl that his client clearly watches too much TV because all she thinks about is sex. Carl agrees that with older people watching six hours a day, they really should have better programming, and unlike younger viewers, they don't distract themselves with phone calls, text messages and the internet. In court, the judge admits that he thought this case would be like every other case brought by Crane, Poole and Schmidt -- ridiculous -- but he realizes it's true that ageism is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry, and it's clear that the networks practice it systematically. He will allow Catherine's case to go to trial, which pleases her so much that she asks Carl, "My trailer or yours?"

Jerry sits Margie down for a lecture, saying that she geared her life toward getting into Harvard, but Harvard won't make her feel less competitive. For him, Harvard didn't stop him from being ridiculed, nor did law school, nor did making partner. She thinks he's suggesting that she needs a new drug for self-esteem, but he says no, it's priorities -- an understanding that Harvard can't give her what's most important in life. Impressed, Katie tells Jerry that he's the bravest person she's ever met for taking on his various challenges every day. She asks him out for a drink, and after a moment of consideration, he races directly over his desk to go with her.

Carl finds Denny practicing walking Shirley down the aisle and thanks him for being such a good sport. Alan bursts in shrieking, "We're coming back!" The Massachusetts Supreme Court has on its own initiative petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their case, and the high court agreed. The three of them dance around with the Shirley doll, yelling, "Supreme Court! Supreme Court!" On the balcony, Denny wonders if the Supreme Court realized it was the two of them when they agreed to hear the case, suspecting that he should retire after this one, with a case in front of the Supreme Court. Alan hates this idea but agrees that they should put it on TV -- they'd get ratings if anyone bothered to promote them, though he thinks there's a law against promoting them.

Denny still doesn't think retirement would be so bad -- he could invite Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Nimmo Bay to have sex when he and Alan aren't fishing -- but he says he's made another decision. "I'm not dying." One way or another, he is determined to get his hands on that drug. This is America, says Denny, who has heard that if you keep getting excited about life, the blood rushes to your brain better, so he intends to enjoy life even if kills him. As long as he gets to fish and be with Alan, he'll love life, and next week he'll love life in Washington in front of the Supreme Court at a special 9 p.m. start time. They agree that Ruth Bader Ginsburg clearly wants Denny, anyway, and probably persuaded the court to take this case.
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