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First Nights
By Grace Schulman


The best of all was listening to a hush
under the chandelier that never fell
and the fat box adorned with gilded masks.

When stiff asbestos parted over velvet,
my father gasped. He'd left the stage for a desk
when I was born. And now first nights were holy.

A program and a house called the Majestic,
more than prayer book and shul, called forth his praise.
One night an actor, fake wrinkles, white hair,

cried out under his breath, All-shaking thunder,
hoarse as my father, who had scared me once,
shutting a book and crying to some storm,

Arms, arms, sword, fire. That night, pitched forward,
I clutched a lineny square, but no tears came
for that desperate king until the swords

I suddenly thought real clashed for his throne.
Exits, applause, and I could breathe again.
My father said, "It helps us bear God's silences,"

and I knew watching was a kind of prayer,
a make-believe you play by looking hard.
It lifted him, as when, evenings at home,

dead still in thoughts about his sister lost,
he heard of cities bombed, while there, onstage,
Lear shouted, in a whisper, Mad, sweet heaven.

--------

From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, where Robert Pinsky writes, "Possibly even more than rhyme, even more than measures derived from the ballad, the deepest, most traditional poetic form in the English tongue's literature is blank verse." Shakespeare wrote his plays primarily in blank verse, and Schulman uses it in tribute to him when "she treats theatrical performance as the epitome of all art -- both in general and in one particular life, that of the poet's father. Schulman's lines live up to their great tradition and model by being saucy and inclusive, encompassing comedy as well as heartbreak, artificiality as well as tragedy...basing a daughter's affectionate tribute to a father on King Lear is daring, and the effect is both amusing and poignant. The poem celebrates the majesty and even holiness of the theater and, by implication, art."

After the usual weekend breakfast at my in-laws' house (pancakes, eggs, sausages, applesauce), we went hiking in a different part of Codorus State Park on Saturday morning, weaving through the woods across from the dam that created the lake which in turn created the park. At one point we were between tall pines and a cornfield; at another, between the lake and a knotted tangle of wild raspberries. It was gorgeous, though quite hot out.

Then we went back to my in-laws' for a small lunch after that huge breakfast and drove separately to Boyd's Bear Country, which was having a local crafts display in and out of the huge barn that houses the world's biggest teddy bear store. The quilters were inside, the kids' crafts outside, and since it was so hot we mostly stayed in, but we discovered that Boyd's is now importing Hansa's realistic stuffed animals including penguins, which pleased younger son immensely. ([livejournal.com profile] apaulled volunteered spontaneously to get me the Wizard of Oz miniature bear set, which is adorable!)

We said farewell to the kids for a couple of days and drove home, stopping at Barnes & Noble to get a 90th birthday present for my uncle. We were going to watch some of the highlights of Live Earth, but Comcast was down in our area for several hours, finally coming on after dark, so instead we listened to it on the radio until finally we had TV and internet and could watch. Sounds like the DC portion was unenthralling anyway...someone tell me if there are any parts worth hunting up online!


A cathedral of pine trees in the Codorus State Park woods.


A fisherman on the lake, seen through the trees.


This is the dam that created the park and drowned the town of Marburg.


I have no idea who planted this cornfield, which is right on park property, but the birds and insects seem to enjoy it.


The views are wonderful all over the park.


Here is one more Codorus groundhog. There was a young groundhog poking about in my in-laws' backyard, probably one of Maximus' children, but he did not want to pose for pictures.


This bunny does not live at Codorus but shares the backyard along with at least five siblings, spouses and/or friends.


And here are local wild animals...at Boyd's Bear Country in Gettysburg.


Belatedly:
[livejournal.com profile] fridayfiver: With dead poets and drum machines
1. What do you do?
Write a lot, mostly to find out what I think.
2. What makes you pay attention? Achingly beautiful music and stunning poetry.
3. What's your inspiration? The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself.
4. Do you believe in magic? I believe in the power of will, and I believe that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy.
5. What is your favorite subject to write about? Love.

[livejournal.com profile] thefridayfive: Set apart from others
1. What sets you apart from your friends?
I'm shorter than all of them.
2. What sets you apart from your family? I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate.
3. What sets you apart from your coworkers/fellow students? I'm a more diversified geek.
4. What is the one thing about you that is most unique? I've never met anyone whose spiritual beliefs are identical to mine.
5. What is your most interesting quality? I have no idea. You tell me: Why are you reading this journal?

[livejournal.com profile] hp_fridayfive: What are the top 5 things you want to see happen in Book 7?
1. Harry survives
, because if he doesn't survive his capacity as a role model is sabotaged in a pretty big way.
2. Harry manages not to marry Ginny, because I really don't want him to be so pathetic and needy that he has to marry a girl who's drooled over him since she was ten years old without giving himself a chance to see anything of the world outside of Hogwarts and the Burrow.
3. Lupin and Tonks break up, so Tonks can go back to being a meaningful role model for women and Lupin can go back to being a meaningful AIDS metaphor.
4. Snape and Draco survive and end up on the side of good, because otherwise I think the message is pretty strongly that there's no going back from mistakes you made in your teens and no redemption in the long run.
5. The real and wizarding worlds don't mix any more than they already have with the Prime Minister business. Every time Rowling implies in an interview that World War II was decided based on wizard interference and Grindelwald influenced Hitler, I want to scream. Hitler was plenty evil without ANY magical influence and did not need any supernatural help, and I bitterly loathe when evil is attributed to a handful of very powerful men rather than to the collaboration of hundreds of ordinary people who just won't do the right thing.
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