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The Little Review
Making No Compromises With the Public Taste
Poem for Thursday, Craziness, Backyard Science 
Thursday, 2nd September 2010 12:28 am

The Sea Chews Things Up
By Cleopatra Mathis

When I woke, the waves had gone black,
turning over the macerated
curd of the ocean bottom, heaving its sludge
onto the beach. Some storm far out, I thought,
had ravaged the sea, stirred up its bed,
sent the whole mess flying to shore.
At my feet I found a grave of starfish,
broken and gnarled among the fleshy
snipes and heads. Every shade of death
covered the sand. It looked hopeless
in the pale day but for the birds,
a congress of gulls, terns, and the rarest plovers,
calm for once, satiated, a measure of
the one law: this sea will claim it all—
feed them, catch them, grind their complicated bones.


It was quite a stressful Wednesday around here, though it didn't start out that way -- I got to sleep later than I did on everyone's first days of school and have breakfast with Paul, who was working from home again since the van's AC is still out and he couldn't get it in to the dealer. First there was idiocy with LiveJournal and Facebook/Twitter settings. Meanwhile, I was expecting Adam's guidance counselor to e-mail for permission to switch his schedule, which Adam has wanted to do but they need the parents to sign off on it and I couldn't sign anything till they knew which classes were still open; Adam was supposed to meet with him second period, so when I didn't hear anything by lunchtime again, I got a bit nervous. Then, sometime before 2 p.m., we got the first of several alerts -- first from the county warning us to avoid downtown Silver Spring, which we assumed had to do with a traffic accident, followed quickly by a report on the hostage situation in the Discovery Channel building. Daniel's school is in the same area of the county -- not close enough to be in any danger, but many of the school buses had to get past the closed roads to reach the school, so he was stuck there late and we'd been warned not to try to go get him because the Beltway was a disaster from the road closures between us and him.

While we were watching the situation unfold on the news -- and can anyone tell me why every channel went on at length about the gunman's demands and rantings on his web sites, considering that publicity for his ideas is one of the things he wanted, which I would think will just encourage other platform-seeking nutcases to commit similar acts? -- Adam arrived home to report that yet again he had not been able to see the guidance counselor, whom I promptly e-mailed. Apparently it stemmed from a miscommunication about the procedure for getting a pass to the office. The counselor was still at the school and said that I could bring son over right then, which I did, particularly since I knew Daniel wouldn't be getting home soon. The situation was much too reminiscent of the DC snipers, who were out shooting at students while my kids were in elementary school in a building on lockdown, so I was pretty tense, but the counselor was actually quite friendly. He couldn't get Adam into journalism, which was his first choice, yet did get him into photography (which apparently means old-fashioned darkroom techniques and film SLRs in the introductory class, which should be interesting). I also got to chat with another guidance counselor who had been an English teacher at Adam's and my middle school while I was a student there; now her daughter is also a guidance counselor with her at the high school!

Daniel had still not arrived home when we got back, though at that point he had texted that they knew what was going on and that the buses had only just gotten to the school. He was very overheated when he finally got home. We had had plans to go to Kohl's to get him shorts for gym class but we decided to do it after dinner, particularly since he also needed a specific type of epoxy for his materials science class. Paul made stir-fry while I was taking a walk, and by the time we ate, we knew the gunman had been killed by the police, though as I type this I think they're still sweeping the area for explosives (he had several strapped to his clothes). We all went after dinner to get the epoxy and shorts -- plus notebooks and binder dividers while we were out -- and we left the TV off for most of the night, since the news was leaping back and forth from the hostage situation to Hurricane Earl, which apparently may hit Maryland harder than was believed last night. At least there was some good news: there are four baby lion cubs at the National Zoo. They lost a cub earlier this year, so hopefully these will thrive!

Malayan flying fox Kamilia has a five-foot wingspan and is content to hang around onstage while bat-man Rob Mies talks to visitors after a show.

We saw Mies and his bats at the Maryland Science Center's Backyard Science Days, where big brown bat Radar gets to eat worms.

Mies shows off straw-colored fruit bat Congo to enthusiastic crowds of young children who must be reminded not to touch.

Here are Kamilia and golden fruit bat Coco just hanging out.

The Science Center is the home of this Maryland terrapin, a diamondback...

...who lives upstairs in the Chesapeake Bay exhibit, also home to this blue crab.

During Backyard Science Days, the staff brings out other animals who live at the museum, like this corn snake named Walter...

...and this salamander, whom we were allowed to touch after the animal demonstration as long as we got our fingers wet so as not to irritate him.
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