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The Little Review
Making No Compromises With the Public Taste
Poem for Thursday, Colonial Farm, 'Swimming Upstream' 
Thursday, 24th March 2011 12:45 am

Black Jackets
By Thom Gunn

   In the silence that prolongs the span
Rawly of music when the record ends,
   The red-haired boy who drove a van
In weekday overalls but, like his friends,

   Wore cycle boots and jacket here
To suit the Sunday hangout he was in,
   Heard, as he stretched back from his beer,
Leather creak softly round his neck and chin.

   Before him, on a coal-black sleeve
Remote exertion had lined, scratched, and burned
   Insignia that could not revive
The heroic fall or climb where they were earned.

   On the other drinkers bent together,
Concocting selves for their impervious kit,
   He saw it as no more than leather
Which, taut across the shoulders grown to it,

   Sent through the dimness of a bar
As sudden and anonymous hints of light
   As those that shipping give, that are
Now flickers in the Bay, now lost in night.

   He stretched out like a cat, and rolled
The bitterish taste of beer upon his tongue,
   And listened to a joke being told:
The present was the things he stayed among.

   If it was only loss he wore,
He wore it to assert, with fierce devotion,
   Complicity and nothing more.
He recollected his initiation,

   And one especially of the rites.
For on his shoulders they had put tattoos:
   The group's name on the left, The Knights,
And on the right the slogan Born To Lose.


Not a lot happened on Wednesday. I had plans to go two places -- to lunch with vertigo66 and to older son's school for a meeting about prom and graduation -- but the former had an emergency dentist appointment and the latter ended up e-mailing its information for parents who couldn't attend. So I stuck close to home, doing work and chores. I had promised to find a friend a photo of Kate Mulgrew, and after two hours of tearing the house apart looking for them (totallykate, did I give all my remaining photos to you?), I still had not found them, but I had found piles of old press kits including one for A Thousand Acres with glossy B&W photos of Colin Firth, so it was a worthwhile activity.

I am sure things happened in the world, but every time I glanced at the news, it was on the All Elizabeth Taylor, All the Time channel no matter which number I tried. I am sorry that she is gone -- I loved some of her films, didn't love others, and didn't see others -- and I feel like an era has truly ended with her passing. But today, at least, it also felt like Michael Jackson's death, which happened during a less frenzied world news cycle so at least the endless replaying of clips wasn't pushing a disaster in Japan or a war in Libya off the screen. If it hadn't been for HRC, I wouldn't have known the fate of the Prop 8 appeal -- an issue that would have been of interest to Taylor while she was alive.

It started to drizzle late in the day, then we had two big thunderstorms right in a row, though I managed to get a long walk in the woods before that. We had chicken piccata for dinner and watched Swimming Upstream (which conveniently is free On Demand at present), an interesting contrast with Shine yesterday considering that Geoffrey Rush plays an even more damaged father in Swimming Upstream than the one who suffocated his character in Shine -- his performance is excellent but really quite upsetting, and Judy Davis and the actors who play their kids are all terrific too. Some more National Colonial Farm photos:


Happy Birthday Paul!
green little review
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