The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

What He Thought
By Heather McHugh

For Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the Mayor, mulled a couple
matters over. The Italian literati seemed
bewildered by the language of America: they asked us
what does "flat drink" mean? and the mysterious
"cheap date" (no explanation lessened
this one's mystery). Among Italian writers we

could recognize our counterparts: the academic,
the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib. And there was one
administrator (The Conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone
narrated sights and histories
the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic--
and least poetic-- so
it seemed. Our last
few days in Rome
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he'd recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?) to whom
he had inscribed and dated it a month before. I couldn't
read Italian either, so I put the book
back in the wardrobe's dark. We last Americans

were due to leave
tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant,
and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till,
sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked

"What's poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables
and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori

or the statue there?" Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn't have to think-- "The truth
is both, it's both!" I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest
to say. What followed taught me something
about difficulty,

for our underestimated host spoke out
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

The statue represents
Giordano Bruno, brought
to be burned in the public square
because of his offence against authority, which was to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government
but rather is poured in waves, through
all things: all things
move. "If God is not the soul itself,
he is the soul OF THE SOUL of the world." Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die

they feared he might incite the crowd (the man
was famous for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask
in which he could not speak.

That is how they burned him.
That is how he died,
without a word,
in front of everyone. And poetry--

(we'd all put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on softly)-- poetry

is what he thought, but did not say.


Our original plan for Sunday was to go to the Brandywine Valley, but we knew by the middle of last week that the weather was going to be terrible. And it was -- no snow or sleet, but lots of cold endless rain and skies that never got properly light. We thought about going to the movies, but Daniel had a marine biology project to work on, so instead we went to Michael's to get foam board and some decorations (it's on threats to estuaries, so we needed scrapbooking cut-outs and stickers of non-native animals, construction, etc.), and while we were out, we stopped to replace Adam's violin shoulder rest and to get some stuff at Trader Joe's, which was tragically out of mint meringue cookies.

I really can't complain about food, though, because Paul decided we should have a Swedish feast in honor of St. Lucia's Day. So he made meatballs, salmon, brown beans, glogg (which is kind of like mead), lussekattor (a kind of bread that I understand is named after Lucia's cat), raggmunk (potato pancakes, so also appropriate for Chanukah), and princess cake (which I rationalized eating because marzipan is surely fine for a low-salt diet, right?). This cake held together a lot better than the pistachio chocolate torte and was equally awesome. So I am completely stuffed, and next weekend is my cousin's Chanukah party, and then Christmas at my in-laws' (more Swedish food)...I love December but my doctor is going to scold me!

Visitors dip candles at Schifferstadt Architectural Museum on Sunday.

There was a cooking demonstration in front of this open hearth.

The house is well-known for such features as this vaulted cellar...

...and this five plate stove, made in 1756 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania at Elizabeth Furnace.

The stove is stoked from the rear opening outside the room.

Though the house was modified many times since it was built in 1758, but some of the walls have been stripped back to show the original bricks.

There are beautiful decorations on all the forged metal that is original to the house.

Excavations around the house have turned up some of the crockery and tools used in the original smokehouse.

Belated fannish5: Five canon moments that turned a casual fandom into a hardcore fandom for you.
1. "Of course, Mr. Spock. Your reaction was quite a pig's eye." McCoy to Spock, Star Trek, "Amok Time."
2. "She's the captain." Chakotay to Torres, Star Trek: Voyager, "Caretaker."
3. "My king. Boromir to Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
4. "Thanks to you, there's one less out there now." Odo to Kira, Deep Space Nine, "Duet."
5. "Parents will not want someone like me teaching their children." Remus to Harry, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Redskins and Ravens both won for a change -- fine, they were playing the Raiders and the Lions respectively, so neither one would have had any excuse for losing, though the Redskins DID lose to the Lions earlier in the season -- and we put on the Eagles-Giants game, where I thought I'd be torn because I hate the Giants, but the more the announcers went on about how good Michael Vick looked, the easier it became to be a full-fledged Giants fan. Finally I couldn't take it any more and put on Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I got on DVD for Chanukah -- consolation for not making it to The Princess and the Frog over the weekend!

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