The Crows at 3 A.M.
By Stanley Plumly
The politically correct, perfect snow of Vermont
undulant under the lightly bruised, moonlit-backed-
becoming-storm-clouds slowing then speeding just above
the line of blue spruce on Mt. Mansfield here in
what I'm told is the state's "cloudiest county,"
vaguely an analogy for the plate tectonics of the blankets
constantly shifting from the left to the right side
of my body, pulling the heart, until by dawn I'm holding on,
waking with the cold, somehow looking at my hands
that, in the pearl dark, look like the first fall castings
of the sycamore, those pocked dry leaves
that were my mother's final hands: sallow
dying coloring, mapping liverspots, rootlike
veining texturing the underdermal surfaces. The test,
writes Fitzgerald, in an essay called "The Crack-Up,"
of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold
opposing ideas in the mind at the same time yet retain
the ability to function. He couldn't, he says, so he cracked
like a plate. He is trying to update Keats's
notion of "Negative Capability, that is
when a man is capable of being in uncertainties,
Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact
& reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go
by a fine isolated verisimilitude
caught from the Penetralium of mystery,
from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge."
When I heard the crows, like raven-geese, rending the dark,
filling the falling snow with wings,
they were speaking or singing.
Crows at the hour—Fitzgerald again—of the dark night
of the soul, Poe-like crows chasing back and forth
in a quandary or a quarrel, up and down the Gihon.
Then they disappeared, let me drift back into sleep
to find my hands holding my mother's hands as if to help her
rise from the cold dead dream light of Vermont.
Stevens's some twenty blackbirds differ only in their scale:
the beauty of inflections and innuendos,
shadows passing out of hearing, out of sight,
but no less present in the settled order. Thus the river's moving,
the blackbird must be flying, two half-knowledges
or halves of one knowing. Those who love us who now live
in the air live in a loneliness we sometimes imagine.
The Bar Mitzvah envelopes are stamped and just need to be mailed and then I can move on to the next set of tasks! This does not sound like it should have been an activity that took much of the day, I know, but I was in line at the post office for nearly an hour because at 1 p.m. they had only a single window open in my local branch office that I've never seen with a line less than ten deep. And they had to go hunting for Forever stamps, after trying to persuade me to buy the pretty Love stamps, which are fine on the outer envelopes but a lot of people will be sending the reply cards back after the price of stamps goes up in a few weeks, so the stamp on the reply card envelope had to be good both before and after the switch.
Other things I did today: bought the farm (sorry, Superpoke Pets joke -- and they were sold out of strawberry plants before 6:30 a.m. Eastern time which is just unfair), discussed teabagging-based humor with children (thanks very much Fox News), got messages from two old friends -- one whom I basically haven't heard from in a decade, another whom I basically haven't heard from in two -- and wrote back, watched Hornblower: The Fire Ship in which Pellew is sooo jealous Horatio might like Foster better (Daniel kept comparing the proclamations about neutrality to things Zap Brannigan would say, hee), and surrendered to the Dreamwidth hype for long enough to conclude that various things don't work but say they're working fine, which is more infuriating than having them say "Sorry, this is broken but we're in beta so that's what you get" -- I get that it's the brand new shiny, but c'mon, folks, at least wait till it's working to tell us it's the best thing ever and we all must pack up and move at once!
A ladies' guest room at Winterthur with the fine linens on the bed.
A gentleman's guest room with the table set for tea.
An avid gardener, du Pont had fresh flowers displayed throughout the house and chose the china in the dining room to coordinate with what was in bloom.
Du Pont liked this hand-painted Chinese wallpaper so much, he raised the ceiling of this room to avoid having to cut the scenes on the paper.
Personally, my favorite is this wallpaper with the tall ships in this room for gentlemen to drink in style.
This is the Montmorenci staircase, named for the plantation from which it was taken. Du Pont bought the estate so that he could have it brought to Delaware from North Carolina.
And this room was also recreated from an estate in Georgia, with most of the items belonging to the woman in the painting.
Between Jon Stewart's scrotal-based humor and telling Ben Affleck that he should kiss Russell Crowe in the preview for State of Play, I am at least relaxed and happy now. Oh, and I hate reality TV and did not expect to be moved in the least by Susan Boyle, who is right now my favorite pop culture phenomenon, and I know I should be embarrassed, but that YouTube video makes me smile too much and the media mea culpas for being ready to laugh at her and write her off make me smile even more.