In the Attic
By Seamus Heaney
Like Jim Hawkins aloft in the crosstrees
Of Hispaniola, nothing underneath him
But still green water and clean bottom sand,
The ship aground, the canted mast far out
Above a seafloor where striped fish pass in shoals—
And when they've passed, the face of Israel Hands
That rose in the shrouds before Jim shot him dead
Appears to rise again . . . "But he was dead enough,"
The story says, "being both shot and drowned."
A birch tree planted twenty years ago
Comes between the Irish Sea and me
At the attic skylight, a man marooned
In his own loft, a boy
Shipshaped in the crow's nest of a life,
Airbrushed to and fro, wind-drunk, braced
By all that's thrumming up from keel to masthead,
Rubbing his eyes to believe them and this most
Buoyant, billowy, topgallant birch.
Ghost-footing what was then the terra firma
Of hallway linoleum, Grandfather now appears
Above me just back from the matinée,
His voice awaver like the draft-prone screen
They'd set up in the Club Rooms earlier.
"And Isaac Hands," he asks, "was Isaac in it?"
His memory of the name awaver, too,
His mistake perpetual, once and for all,
Like the single splash when Israel's body fell.
As I age and blank on names,
As my uncertainty on stairs
Is more and more the light-headedness
Of a cabin boy's first time on the rigging,
As the memorable bottoms out
Into the irretrievable,
It's not that I can't imagine still
That slight untoward rupture and world-tilt
As a wind freshened and the anchor weighed.
Another from this week's New Yorker.
Adam graduated from the Bar-Bat Mitzvah program at Hebrew school late Tuesday afternoon, so I ran around doing chores earlier in the day. I had to do very important things like go to Best Buy so I could get Bottle Shock on its first day of release -- hey, I had $5 in rewards bucks, and I discovered that they had Love Actually for $4.99, which was obviously a sign from above that I need more Alan Rickman in my life. I also stopped at Blockbuster because I had a coupon for a free rental that had to be used by tomorrow. And I stopped in a gift shop that's going out of business in the same shopping center as Blockbuster, and grabbed some grocery necessities, and ate a quick late lunch, and took Adam to the last Hebrew school class before the commencement ceremony which we attended with my parents.
The senior rabbi talked about what his own Jewish education has meant to him.
The kids did not look quite as enthusiastic as the rabbis...
...nor the music teacher, who tried to get the adults to stand and sing, with extremely limited success.
The kids were given certificates of graduation...
...starting with Adam, who came first in the alphabet.
You can see how thrilled he was. (Neither of us has been at all impressed with the Hebrew teaching in the past few years, when the school appeared to be teaching to the lowest common denominator; Daniel learned a great deal more, though he also had more homework, and actually did it, unlike most of the students.)
And afterward, to celebrate, there was cake.
My parents took us all out to California Pizza Kitchen to celebrate Adam's graduation -- he starts Bar Mitzvah tutoring on Wednesday, so it isn't like he's actually finished, and the Judaic Studies program on weekends continues through the spring. In the evening we watched Wall-E, which the kids had refused to see in the theater on the grounds that it was a Disney movie, but then Adam got to watch at a school party and decided that we should all see. I knew it was supposed to be good, but I was completely unspoiled for most of its surprises, so I was surprised in turn at how much I loved it! Wall-E is an adorable litter-bot who acts like a pesked kitty with a laser pointer when the aliens arrive! He can withdraw into his "shell" like a turtle! His only friend is an immortal super-cockroach!
Okay, so the film has some typical Disney gender role/heteronormative issues...it also has a pink Dalek that brushes your teeth for you and shameless love for Hello Dolly -- which stars Barbra Streisand and was written by Jerry Herman, two gay icons, plus we get to hear Michael Crawford sing. The film turns Kubrick on his head, taking 2001: A Space Odyssey's use of Strauss and recovering it from the Evil Computer, whose programming is the fault of Fred Willard as someone we should never elect president. And Axiom is celebrating the 700th anniversary of its original three-hour tour, and its action takes place on the Lido Deck, site of so many first encounters on The Love Boat. The cleverest scenes by far were the ones with no dialogue; the robot characters are so much more creative than the human ones.
Sears is finally supposed to fix our dryer tomorrow. Be prepared for much ranting and possible homicide charges if this does not occur.