The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

Ode to a Drum
By Yusef Komunyakaa

Gazelle, I killed you
for your skin's exquisite
touch, for how easy it is
to be nailed to a board
weathered raw as white
butcher paper. Last night
I heard my daughter praying
for the meat here at my feet.
You know it wasn't anger
that made me stop my heart
till the hammer fell. Weeks
ago, I broke you as a woman
once shattered me into a song
beneath her weight, before
you slouched into that
grassy hush. But now
I'm tightening lashes,
shaping hide as if around
a ribcage, stretched
like five bowstrings.
Ghosts cannot slip back
inside the body's drum.
You've been seasoned
by wind, dust, & sunlight.
Pressure can make everything
whole again, brass nails
tacked into the ebony wood
your face has been carved
five times. I have to drive
trouble from the valley.
Trouble in the hills.
Trouble on the river,
too. There's no kola nut,
palm wine, fish, salt,
or calabash. Kadoom.
Kadoom. Kadoom. Ka-
doooom. Kadoom. Now
I have beaten a song back into you,
rise & walk away like a panther.


"As we welcome Obama into the White House, I choose to celebrate with Yusef Komunyakaa's 'Ode to a Drum,' in which an African hunter addresses the gazelle he uses to feed his family and to make a drum," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Assembling the instrument, the speaker recreates a living body to carry the song of lost ghosts (perhaps stolen by slave ships). But the drum's transforming power also binds its listeners in a powerful circle. It beats trouble from the land. By poem's end, it's a triumphant panther. We wish similar blessings and powers on our new president, as his entry into office dovetails with the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King."

Daniel had robotics again Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so the rest of us had a quiet morning, then we took Adam to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center since that was around the same side of the Beltway as Daniel's meeting from which we had to pick him up...and most of Goddard's visitor center attractions are indoors! Brrr! The visitor center has models of some of NASA's research vessels, as well as an exhibit on the Hubble Space Telescope and the origins of the universe with lots of interactive computer activities, while out back, several sounding rockets and test capsules are on permanent display.

A large print of the four outer planets of our solar system at Goddard Space Flight Center's visitor center.

I have a particular bias, though, for the Hubble Ultra Deep Field images, which have provided so much information about the age of the universe and its probable fate.

The museum has three models of the Hubble Telescope which recorded the view of the universe above, including a large one suspended from the ceiling...

...a smaller one illustrating its insulation, antennae and and solar collectors...

...and the smallest, to illustrate how the space shuttle transported the massive telescope... that it could send back glorious images like this one of the Ring Nebula in Lyra.

The beautiful M100 galaxy, one of the brightest members of the Virgo Galactic Cluster, is a spiral like our own Milky Way.

We had an Age of Sail-oriented Saturday night, watching first Crusoe, which was terrific as always, then The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake, which...well, made Elizabeth: The Golden Age seem like accurate history by comparison, but was quite entertaining as crack goes. Crusoe's boy crush is even more obvious than Merlin's, and the show itself has so many things I love -- older main characters, tall ships, colonial British politics, an awesome treehouse...not the greatest of gender politics, I grant you, but what with trying to make nods to the source material, that may be unavoidable.

This week, in a refreshing break from local cannibals, there are locals who've been enslaved, forced to learn English, and humiliated, who now want to punish Crusoe for doing the same to Friday, not accepting Friday's insistence that he's a free man ("You're a disgrace to your family and to your tribe...kill the man who would be your master"). For his part, Crusoe insists that he considers Friday his equal and says that he would die for him, which the chief greets with scorn: "Do you have a woman? Do you have children to carry your name forward? And yet you would die for this man?" Um, yes. *g* Of course the chief then insists they fight to the death, and of course they turn the fight on its head and humiliate the chief. And there's a local woman with eyes for Friday, which does not escape Crusoe's notice. Though Friday insists that women are mysterious and says it wouldn't have worked with her, which Crusoe guesses is because she runs faster than Friday. Hee.

Meanwhile, Olivia is in London! Still pretending to be a man when necessary! And since Susannah obviously needs a savior, I'm really hoping it will be Olivia rather than a man; Susannah is a gullible idiot signing over her children to Blackthorn, but she has few people she can trust -- she knows her brother's an idiot and a liar, at least -- and I suppose she's so desperate to see Robinson again that she's willing to delude herself the way he's done at times over her. But I don't get that plot at all, because I thought Blackthorn wanted her for himself; now it seems like he just wants her and Robinson's children and is perfectly willing to discard her. If he wants a grateful heir, even if not to father one himself, why not get someone untainted by the religious wars to provide it? What does Blackthorn want?

Drake's nemesis Don Sandovate merely wants the Tree of Life in SciFi's version of events. Well, and wealth, power, prestige, etc. The film has a spunky heroine -- Drake's daughter, not his girlfriend, a role better occupied by his crewmember and BFF -- though it also has race and religious issues out the wazoo. But if you take it in the absurdist Pirates of the Caribbean/National Treasure spirit in which it seems intended, it's fun anyway -- Adrian Paul chewing scenery and forgetting which accent he's supposed to be doing, Temuera Morrison chewing even more scenery and waving around an outrrrrageous hat, Plato's Cave, the Library of Alexandria, the Garden of Eden, the North Pole, castles, fortresses, forests, sea monsters, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade...really, what's not to like?

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