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Descent
By Meghan O'Rourke


after Apollinaire

I was born a bastard in an amphetamine spree,
lit through with a mother's quickenings,
and I burrowed into her, afraid she would not have me,
and she would not have me,
I dropped out down below the knees
of a rickrack halterdress, sheeted,
tented knees, water breaking, linoleum peeling,
and no one there to see but me,
I woke on the floor as if meant to put her back together,
to try to hold on to her
like a crate to a river, as if I'd been shipped down
to stand straight while
in the misgiving
she said I had a dream of thirty-six sticks floating down a river and a dog who couldn't swim and I could not swim,
I slipped from her grip in a room
where two orange cats stared like tidy strangers
at a world of larger strangeness,
and I had no name.
I was there at her breast
and I thought I could see her,
the swag of her hair, the jaw,
the fearing, but I barely saw,
I went sliding down the river from a house
in which it was sweet to sleep
and the cool of the sheets was never cool enough,
the imprint of the bedded bodies two geese diving at once.

--------

"With a fresh, wry voice, Meghan O'Rourke can make the quotidian sound strange," writes Mary Karr in Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "In 'Descent,' the speaker's own birth begins with a metaphoric shock. The refrain -- 'she would not have me' -- is a repeated fear and a statement of the baby's sense of undesirability. The speaker is, in a word, unbearable. The baby is then 'dropped,' followed by three prepositions meant to reiterate the considerable fall: 'out down below.' Relocating the birth in physical and fashion history, she notes the hem of her mother's mod halter dress. The word 'rickrack' both describes the trim and enacts sonically the back and forth of the poet's vision. The baby passes 'sheeted, tented knees, water breaking, linoleum peeling,/and no one there to see but me.' This is the poet's plight -- 'no one there to see but me' -- and she's born into both wonder and danger: 'I slipped from her grip/in a room where two orange cats stared/like tidy strangers at a world of larger strangeness,/and I had no name.'"

[livejournal.com profile] dementordelta is here and we are going to the Pennsylvania RenFaire on Sunday! On Saturday we went to National Geographic Explorers Hall to see China's Forgotten Fleet: Voyages of Zheng He, about the eunuch admiral of the Ming Dynasty who sailed on seven voyages to India, Africa, the Arabian peninsula and many places in Europe, almost 100 years before Columbus set sail from Spain. The National Museum in China loaned National Geographic copies of his maps and the Quanzhou Maritime Museum provided ship models including a 10-foot-long replica of a treasure ship.


This is the replica of the treasure ship, with a representation of Columbus' Santa Maria beside it for size comparison.


This ship had four poop decks and the officers aboard lived quite nicely.


Ming porcelain produced in the Jingdezhen kilns; this blue-and-white pattern is known as qingbua.


A bronze bell from 1431, commissioned by Zheng He as a prayer offering during a winter monsoon.


Rubies from Sri Lanka were among the most valuable treasures of the fleet. Pirates initially tried to seize prizes from the treasure ships and were brutally put down.


Iron spearhead designed to fit on a shaft, bearing an inscription honoring Zheng He, created in Indonesia where the admiral is still honored during the San Po festival.


This copper censer with clouds and elephants decorating it was given as a gift to an East African leader.


A memorial to the sea goddess Tianfei erected at Changle in 1431 by Zheng He, telling of his efforts to treat people with kindness and virtue.


[livejournal.com profile] apaulled made us lobster cakes for dinner while the kids were at the pool and we were watching Torchwood, then [livejournal.com profile] dementordelta and I went to see Bottle Shock, which was enormous fun -- Alan Rickman got to make every sneering, eye-rolling expression in his repertoire and Bradley Whitford and Eliza Dushku had bit parts. I liked Chris Pine a lot, too, even though I was trying not to because there is no way I am ever going to see him as Captain Kirk. It's lighter than Sideways and also has a gratuitous blonde love interest, but it's very entertaining. After the movie, we thought about stopping at Gifford's for ice cream, but the line was so long that we opted for going to the grocery store and getting whipped cream, fudge, peanut butter sauce and Moose Tracks. Gronk!

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