The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday, Great Falls Flood, Romeo & Juliet

Late Afternoon: The Onslaught Of Love
By Anthony Hecht

For William and Emily Maxwell

At this time of day
One could hear the caulking irons sound
Against the hulls in the dockyard.
Tar smoke rose between trees
And large oily patches floated on the water,
Undulating unevenly
In the purple sunlight
Like the surfaces of Florentine bronze.

At this time of day
Sounds carried clearly
Through hot silences of fading daylight.
The weedy fields lay drowned
In odors of creosote and salt.
Richer than double-colored taffeta,
Oil floated in the harbor,
Amoeboid, iridescent, limp.
It called to mind the slender limbs
Of Donatello's David.

It was lovely and she was in love.
They had taken a covered boat to one of the islands.
The city sounds were faint in the distance:
Rattling of carriages, tumult of voices,
Yelping of dogs on the decks of barges.

At this time of day
Sunlight empurpled the world.
The poplars darkened in ranks
Like imperial servants.
Water lapped and lisped
In its native and quiet tongue.
Oakum was in the air and the scent of grasses.
There would be fried smelts and cherries and cream.
Nothing designed by Italian artisans
Would match this evening's perfection.
The puddled oil was a miracle of colors.


We had a gorgeous Sunday to follow our gorgeous Saturday, so after a quiet morning while Adam was volunteering at Hebrew school and Daniel at robotics, we went to Great Falls to see how high the river had risen in the wake of last week's storms -- the Potomac had been predicted to crest at flood stage late on Saturday. It was the highest I've ever seen it, because the park has been closed when it became dangerous; today the trail across the island to the overlook was closed, as well as the most accessible section of the Billy Goat Trail, and park rangers were ordering people off the rocks at various points near the river, which was moving extremely quickly. Adam did some ninja climbing up the cliffs to take photos. We did get a few treats -- the first time in my life I have ever seen a beaver in the park (the ranger said that they've been swimming ashore exhausted and sleeping on the banks where they can, poor guys), as well as a heron, a couple of geese, and a couple of turtles. I kept checking my phone for news from Japan; the situation there is never far from my thoughts.

A bedraggled beaver rests on a Potomac River bank. Its home was probably wrecked in the flood waters.

This is one of the bridges from which I usually take photos, closed at present because the water is nearly touching the bottom and the spray is coming over the rails.

Here I am on somewhat higher ground...

...and here is Adam (you can see how turbulent the water is even here in the lower part of the falls where it's usually much calmer).

Here's a look up toward the falls around Olmsted Island from below.

This heron opted to stay in the calm waters of the C&O Canal... did these turtles.

My parents came over for dinner, since Paul had volunteered to make a belated birthday dinner for my mother and we won't see them next weekend -- we had Chicken Oscar, with crabmeat and hollandaise sauce (well, some of us had fake chicken and no crabmeat). Then we went to see a local theater group do Romeo and Juliet at the Olney Theatre Lab -- Adam read it recently in school and needs to see a few plays this semester for his drama class, so we figured that was a good choice for both reasons, and it was quite a good production. Mercutio, Benvolio, and Balthazar were all played by women, all of whom were terrific, as was Juliet (I think Romeo is a thankless role, I've never seen one on stage or film who left an impression as strong as Juliet's). The play was somewhat oddly set in 1943 and the Montagues were all wearing yellow stars, though there isn't a lot of exploration of prejudice for its own sake in the play (and I don't know what life was like for Jews in Verona specifically, though the program says the residents refused to round up the Jews there).

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