2212 West Flower Street
By Michael Collier
When I think of the man who lived in the house
behind ours and how he killed his wife
and then went into his own back yard,
a few short feet from my bedroom window,
and put the blue-black barrel of his 30.06
inside his mouth and pulled the trigger,
I do not think about how much of the barrel
he had to swallow before his fingers reached the trigger,
nor the bullet that passed out the back of his neck,
nor the wild orbit of blood that followed
his crazy dance before he collapsed in a clatter
over the trash cans, which woke me.
Instead I think of how quickly his neighbors restored
his humanity, remembering his passion
for stars which brought him into his yard
on clear nights, with a telescope and tripod,
or the way he stood in the alley in his rubber boots
and emptied the red slurry from his rock tumblers
before he washed the glassy chunks of agate
and petrified wood. And we remembered, too,
the goose-neck lamp on the kitchen table
that burned after dinner and how he worked
in its bright circle to fashion flies and lures.
The hook held firmly in a jeweler's vise,
while he wound the nylon thread around the haft
and feathers. And bending closer to the light,
he concentrated on tying the knots, pulling them tight
against the coiled threads. And bending closer still,
turning his head slightly toward the window,
his eyes lost in the dark yard, he took the thread ends
in his teeth and chewed them free. Perhaps he saw us
standing on the sidewalk watching him, perhaps he didn't.
He was a man so much involved with what he did,
and what he did was so much of his loneliness,
our presence didn’t matter. No one's did.
So careful and precise were all his passions,
he must have felt the hook with its tiny barbs
against his lip, sharp and trigger-shaped.
It must have been a common danger for him—
the wet clear membrane of his mouth threatened
by the flies and lures, the beautiful enticements
he made with his own hands and the small loose
thread ends which clung to the roof of his mouth
and which he tried to spit out like an annoyance
that would choke him.
Sunday morning dawned just as wet and chilly as Saturday. We drove to the Brandywine Valley with dementordelta, heading first to the Brandywine River Museum (free till noon on Sundays in March), which in addition to the permanent exhibits of paintings by N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth is currently hosting "Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey" -- a hilarious collection of Gorey's illustrated stories, which are full of imaginary animals, grotesque landscapes, and wickedly funny disasters. This museum also has local sculpture and paintings by Howard Pyle and Maxfield Parrish, plus a pretty restaurant overlooking the river where we had lunch.
In the early afternoon, we went to the Delaware Museum of Natural History, which has "Backyard Monsters" -- an exhibit on insects with giant animatronic ants, praying mantis, scorpion, and some robot bugs as well as actual insect specimens -- plus their ongoing exhibits on local and global animal life, including a couple of dinosaur skeletons and many preserved birds. Then we went to the Delaware Art Museum, which is hosting an exhibit of Victorian paintings from the Royal Holloway Collection at the University of London -- wonderful landscapes and seascapes as well as some portraits of the contrast between the rich and the poor, plus "The Princes in the Tower" by Millais. This museum has a large permanent exhibit of Pre-Raphaelite art as well that we have visited many times before.
Every photo I have ever taken of the river through the windows at this museum has contained reflections of people and balconies. Here are Adam, myself and dementordelta suspended over the water.
Here is dementordelta reading an information card in the entranceway of the Gorey exhibit, in which no photos were permitted...
...and here is a clearer photo of myself and dementordelta outside Delaware Museum of Natural History.
Inside, we went to see the giant animatronic insects, which give a terrific view of how the mandibles work and how the antennae are attached.
Both the Brandywine River and Delaware Art Museums have paintings by Howard Pyle, who was from Delaware and taught many local painters. Here is his "Mermaid," plus a painting of his studio containing the painting.
The Delaware Art Museum is probably best known for having the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite art outside of England. This is Rossetti's "Water Willow" -- a painting of the artist's best friend's wife and his own lover, Jane Morris.
The Chihuly glass installation is another lovely permanent exhibit at the Delaware museum.
We drove home in alternating driving rain and brilliant sunshine after the Delaware museum closed, looking at all the trees blooming along I-95, and had dinner at California Tortilla. Then dementordelta headed home and we watched some Futurama at Daniel's request, including the one where Leela pretends to be a man to join Zap's army and the one where Bender gets his mind erased. We did not see Louisville lose. Right now I don't care who wins the men's tournament so long as it's not UNC, and I'd put up with that in exchange for the Maryland women winning!