The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Sunday


Terminal Étude
By Alissa Valles


not on paper but human and bitter
-- Miron Bia{lstrok}oszewski

We're only a little dead:
a shadow broke a window
and found its way to bed
warm enough for a word
narrow enough for a widow
only a fissure in Warsaw

in the middle of Warsaw
who is also a widow
(behind a broken window
she's only a little dead)
I was lying in bed
too tired to read a word

Without a single word
about your being dead
(it's obvious to a widow)
you lay down in bed
and told me about Warsaw
just outside the window

Holding shards of window
you said you had a word
known only to the dead
you whispered it in bed
it sounds a bit like Warsaw
from the mouth of a widow

We made death a widow
more bereft than Warsaw
falling through a window
in the middle of the bed
wrapped in that one word
we raised up the dead

A door leads to the dead
by a fissure in the word
so now all over Warsaw
down to the last widow
we're waiting by a window
till they come back to bed

Now all Warsaw is our bed
and your word is a widow
with a window on the dead

--------

"The title of this poem refers to one of the terminals at Fryderyk Chopin Airport in Warsaw," writes Valles in Poet's Choice. "I had been working for months on a translation of a magnificent long poem by Miron Bialoszewski (1922-1983), a Polish poet who remains virtually unknown to American readers...it begins 'I'm a little dead/and you're a little dead,' and like much of Bialoszewski's poetry it is a difficult poem to do justice to in English. I could not get his first two lines out of my head, and it seems that my poem was a way of trying to break that aural spell. It became, oddly, a poem both about the porous barrier between the living and the dead, and about the role language plays in crossing that barrier, which is one of Bialoszewski's great themes."

I had a pretty good day, but sorry, I'm sitting here seething as our president (whom I have had to un-follow on Twitter) is trying to force me to celebrate a health care reform bill that utterly betrays women as the greatest thing since Don't Ask, Don't Tell. You'll have to forgive me if I can't throw a party over the passage of a health care bill that gives a giant FUCK YOU to reproductive rights, as even Democrats agreed to toss abortion coverage out, meaning that even those of us whose plans now protect our right to choose will likely have to pay for the procedure entirely should we ever need it. Hey, Barack, who needs Roe v. Wade overturned when you can simply make women choose between being unable to get any health coverage or bearing children they don't want (or aborting them in back alleys, since the deaths or maiming of women surely isn't a problem for politicians)? Remind me again why I was supposed to see Hillary Clinton as the villain in the post-feminist Obamagirl fantasy of change...or never mind, don't tell me, I mean, we live in a country where Sarah Palin could almost become Vice President and Dan Choi could almost serve in the military, right?

Otherwise I had only minor frustrations on a lovely November Saturday. We went to the annual Swedish Bazaar held in a local church, where we only ever buy Swedish food (mmmm Swedish rye bread), but it's fun to look at all the straw goats and dalahast. We stopped briefly at Toys R Us because they were having a Pokemon event and the kids wanted to download to their games whichever Pokemon was available in the store -- I think it was Arceus but that name makes me laugh, so I may be misremembering -- and I may have bought a Barbie and Ken set, which may have been characters from a certain film I have vowed not to discuss, because, you know, Sparkly!Ken. Our plan was then to go to Sugarloaf Mountain for a hike, but the roads accessing it were closed unexpectedly because Frederick County was doing some sort of emergency repairs. So we stopped at Target to get younger son sneakers, where I am not at all ashamed to admit that I bought the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for $18.99 in a double pack, though I was very angry at Target because they're remodeling their bathrooms in Damascus and instead of letting customers use the employee bathrooms in the back, they set up two stinking, filthy port-a-potties around the side (I went to Wal-Mart, because give me a break, I'm not boycotting a store's clean bathrooms).

Since we were already up in that direction, we went hiking instead at Seneca Creek State Park, where there weren't many leaves left on the trees, but we saw deer, a woodpecker, the mill ruins, and other scenery that made up for it. We were there till sunset, when a park ranger pretty much escorted us out of the parking lot! I called my mother on the way home because I'd left at her house low sodium cheese that she bought me, and she invited us to dinner, so we ate with my parents again. Then we came home and watched this week's Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter, which I did not enjoy as much as last week's but it was pretty fluffy by comparison -- sure, it has Callum Blue whom I learned to love on The Tudors and now get to see regularly as Zod, but the stakes in the story seem so small. Okay, there are some great lines (Clyde: "This is creepy. This is Hogwarts, Tim Burton style." Rani: "This is worse than The Sixth Sense. Are you in for a surprise."), but as my son said, it's "Midnight" meets Scooby Doo...not the most profound of setups in either case. Still enjoyable, though, and better written than either show I watched on Friday night, so this isn't really a complaint, just don't have a lot to say the way I did about Sarah Jane last week.


Straw goats and tomtens for sale at the Swedish Bazaar at St. James Episcopalian Church.


There were also Swedish souvenirs...


...and imported food...


...and music.


Here is one of the deer we saw grazing in the open meadow at Seneca Creek State Park.


And this is the little woodpecker we saw in the woods.


The growing-bare trees were reflected beautifully in the water...


...and the setting sun made it a very pretty walk.
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