The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday and National Geographic Museum

By Deborah Brown

Better than a lover's heart, the immortality of a name.
Love versus Fama, the goddess, with her long purple nails,
her sweeping cloak, her memories of Caesar, Alexander,
the wolves on seven hills.

Even better than love, fame, for as long as there is illness.
I see that if I had discovered Cushing's disease,
I could have named it for myself.
It's hard to maintain desire, that's part of it.

But who first ate a grapefruit or tweezed a splinter
or waved across the pampas at someone else,
initiating the habit of the raised hand?
(If you don't wave two hands, there could still be a weapon.)

They're all forgotten, those heroes.
How much do we know of Cushing, or care?
What about Harvey, before whom our blood
traveled uncharted paths? Or so I was told
in seventh grade. I never wanted fame,
so back to love, the desire for love, the one
that costs everything, that shocks you
when someone else casts a shadow on the map
of the earth for the first time larger than your own.


We thought about going to Fort Washington on Sunday for artillery demonstrations, but the weather forecast said it would be nearly 100 degrees, so rather than spend the afternoon in the sun we opted instead to go with my parents to the National Geographic Museum, which currently has three exhibits: a photo display on Hiram Bingham's 1911 expedition to Machu Picchu, a collection of artifacts from the Etruscan civilization, and Race to the End of the Earth on the Amundsen-Scott competition to be the first with their teams to reach the South Pole. The latter is touring from the Museum of Natural History in New York and is quite enjoyable, though younger son said it is a record of the selfish egos of the explorers (and reading about how they killed and ate penguins, plus their ponies and dogs -- on a planned schedule, after getting attached to them -- I couldn't find it in me to defend either).

I didn't know much about Etruscan culture before this exhibit, so that was of great interest; most of the objects were decorative funerary items and some household goods like knives and lamps, but there were also records of the near-equal stature of aristocratic women to men and some of the Greek-influenced amphorae and jars. We had dinner with my parents, who had a new grill so my mother barbecued beef and tofu burgers and dogs. Then we decided that, having enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens, we should give Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull another chance...but I must admit that, as charming as find Karen Allen and as much as I always love Harrison Ford, I have all the same issues with the antifeminist schlock, natives who can't do for themselves, and overlong ending as I had last time -- as Paul said, "George! I said no aliens! That's 13 aliens! Can't you count?" Photos weren't allowed in the National Geographic exhibits, so here are some pics instead of a starling and friend bathing in the fountain out front:


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