Hollyhocks in the Fog
By August Kleinzahler
Every evening smoke blows in from the sea, sea
smoke, ghost vapor
of lost frigates, sunken destroyers.
It hangs over the eucalyptus grove,
cancels the hills,
curls around garbage sacks outside the lesbian bar.
And every evening the black bus arrives,
the black Information bus from down the Peninsula,
unloading the workers at the foot of the block.
They wander off, this way and that, into the fog.
Young, impassive, islanded within their tunes:
Death Cab for Cutie, Arcade Fire. . .
From this distance they seem almost suspended,
extirpated, floating creatures of exile,
as they walk past the Victorian facades
and hollyhocks in their fenced-in plots,
red purple apricot
solitary as widows or disgraced metaphysicians.
Perhaps they're exhausted, overwhelmed by it all:
spidering the endless key words, web pages,
appetite feeding on itself:
frantic genealogists, like swarms of killer bees.
The countless, urgent inquiries:
the poor Cathars and the Siege of Carcassone --
what can these long-ago misfortunes tell us of ourselves, of life --
Ryne Duren + wild pitches + 1958 . . .
Knowledge a trembling Himalayas of rubble:
Huitzilopochtili, Chubby Checker. . .
But for now they are done, till the bus comes again tomorrow.
There is nothing further to be known.
The fog, like that animate nothingness
of Lao-Tzu's sacred Tao,
has taken over the world, and, with night settling in,
all that had been, has ever been, is gone,
gone but for the sound of the wind.
From Poet's Choice in the online edition of The Washington Post. "The first third or so of this poem was written 28 years ago, here in San Francisco, in the same apartment I'm in now," writes Kleinzahler, who won the National Book Critics Circle Award recently. "I was never quite happy with the rest of it and only recently figured out how I might complement those earlier lines. The 'hook' or 'event' precipitating the resurrection and completion of the poem was the -- to me -- strange phenomenon of the big black Google bus at the foot of the block every morning and evening, picking up Google employees, then dropping them off at night." Kleinzahler's newest book is Sleeping It Off in Rapid City.
After we retrieved Adam from Hebrew school, we spent the first official day of spring at the National Arboretum, where we were delighted to find many more flowers than we were anticipating so early in the season...even some cherry blossoms, though the ones around the Tidal Basin aren't expected to bloom until the last days of March. We also walked through the bonsai, over to and around the National Capitol Columns, and along the trail that winds through the Asian collection. The weather couldn't have been more beautiful and even the Anacostia River looked pretty through the emerging buds on the trees.
Various types of cherry blossoms (sakura or prunus if you prefer a more official designation) can be seen in different parts of the arboretum in different stages of emergence.
Here for instance is a lovely dark pink sakura tree at the entrance to the bonsai exhibit.
These smaller, paler ones are nearer the main visitor center.
The Asian collection has more camellias than cherry blossoms currently in bloom.
But the koi are already very active in the fountains surrounding the visitor center...
...and other signs of spring were emerging all over the grounds.
We may have to miss the Sakura Festival downtown this year because of the kids' spring break schedule, so this was a lovely surprise.
Daniel called as we were preparing to leave the arboretum with the sad news that his team had lost in the quarter-finals of the robotics competition in Annapolis, so they will not be traveling to the national championships in Atlanta. We headed toward his high school to retrieve him, arriving before he did and stopping at Starbucks for hot chocolate while we waited. We knew from the radio that Maryland had lost to Memphis by nearly 20 points in the NCAA tournament ("March Sadness," to quote WBAL), but we came home and watched some of the later NCAA games, including the nail-biter between Gonzaga and Western Kentucky and the very close Duke-Texas match.