The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Wednesday

Monja Blanca
By Clive James

The wild White Nun, rarest and loveliest
Of all her kind, takes form in the green shade
Deep in the forest. Streams of filtered light
Are tapped, distilled, and lavishly expressed
As petals. Her sweet hunger is displayed
By the labellum, set for bees in flight
To land on. In her well, the viscin gleams:
Mesmeric nectar, sticky stuff of dreams.

This orchid’s sexual commerce is confined
To flowers of her own class, and nothing less.
And yet for humans she sends so sublime
A sensual signal that it melts the mind.
The hunters brave a poisoned wilderness
To capture just a few blooms at a time,
And even they, least sensitive of men,
Will stand to look, and sigh, and look again,

Dying of love for what does not love them.
Transported to the world, her wiles inspire
The same frustration in rich connoisseurs
Who pay the price for nourishing the stem
To keep the bloom fresh, as if their desire
To live forever lived again through hers:
But in a day she fades, though every fold
Be duplicated in fine shades of gold.

Only where she was born, and only for
One creature, will she give up everything
Simply because she is adored; and he
Must sacrifice himself. The Minotaur,
Ugly, exhausted, has no gifts to bring
Except his grief. She opens utterly
To show how she can match his tears of pain.
He drinks her in, and she him, like the rain.

He sees her, then, at her most beautiful,
And he would say so, could she give him speech:
But he must end his life there, near his prize,
Having been chosen, half man and half bull,
To find the heaven that we never reach
Though seeking it forever. Nothing buys
Or keeps a revelation that was meant
For eyes not ours and once seen is soon spent:

For all our sakes she should be left alone,
Guarded by legends of how men went mad
Merely from tasting her, of monsters who
Died from her kiss. May this forbidden zone
Be drawn for all time. If she ever had
A hope to live, it lies in what we do
To curb the longing she arouses. Let
Her be. We are not ready for her yet,

Because we have a mind to make her ours,
And she belongs to nobody’s idea
Of the sublime but hers. But that we know,
Or would, if it were not among her powers
Always across the miles to bring us near
To where she thrives on shadows. By her glow
We measure darkness; by her splendor, all
That is to come, or gone beyond recall.


Another from this week's New Yorker.

My kids and I had lunch with gblvr at Lebanese Taverna, which was very nice both in terms of the food and in terms of getting to see gblvr, whose birthday present I remembered to bring this time! Unfortunately it was not a very long lunch because Daniel had a lot of homework after his first day of health class; my in-laws wanted to take them camping overnight later in the week and he doesn't think he can spare the time because new work is being uploaded on a regular basis. (He seems to be reasonably interested in the work, at least, and there is a lot of online interaction with the other students, which makes me happy because I was afraid he'd be stuck in the house not talking to other kids while taking the course -- he did lots of talking to other kids today electronically.) My afternoon and most of my evening was spent with my new 1TB hard drive, moving photos and creating a backup of my documents folder, which took an absurd number of hours.

PBS showed a special in the evening on cuttlefish, Kings of Camouflage, that was fascinating; ngech tells me that it was formerly titled Cuttlefish: The Brainy Bunch and was screened at the Natural History museum downtown, but I missed it so I was very pleased to learn that cuttlefish are more intelligent than a lot of vertebrates. Then we watched Warehouse 13, which was pretty blah, though apparently I can sit through an hour of any show where I like the female lead even if the plot isn't all that hot. We watched the post-Torchwood Declassified excerpt, and now Jon Stewart is making us cry with his explanation that Captain Trade is getting buggered by the donkey because of compromises by the Democrats who keep acting like they don't want to offend the American people who elected them for a more progressive agenda by voting like progressives.

Adam brushing one of the goats in the farm area of the Maryland Zoo.

Other local species include this bullfrog and many, many tadpoles living in the small swampy area near the penguin enclosure...

...and this rabbit, which we are pretty sure is not an official resident of the zoo, but certainly lives in Druid Hill Park since it was munching the grass right beside the tents for Breakfast with the Penguins.

This fox is a local species living in the Maryland wilderness exhibit.

So are these bats, who were getting fed when we arrived which is why there was enough light to photograph them through the glass.

Prairie dogs are not a local species, but they tolerate the Baltimore weather very well, so there is a new large enclosure for them.

The rhinos did not seem to appreciate the afternoon heat, however.

The cranes seemed less perturbed, except inasmuch as red-eyed cranes always look like they're perturbed about something.

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