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Thermopylae
By Meghan O'Rourke


Bring me to your childhood room, where
the old captains never flinched, and push me to the floor.
The arrows of the Persians flew so thick
and came so fast they blotted out the sun.
All the better, the captains said; we will fight in the shade.
A far cry from the aunt's needlepoint by the door --
Bless this home and all who visit.
Downstairs the family sleeps like a tapestry;
the soldiers stood till noon, when the clouds parted
and sun drenched the battlefield.
Tiger shadows stripe our twisted legs, and even the books
seem to pull from the sight
of my being stitched to your sleeping limbs,
as if beyond the arrows of leaves
they spot a sun unhorsed from its chariot,
head to your breakable head, the shapes
across the pass at first indistinct,
then stiffened into bodies, limbs, thumbs.
One hand running over the bruised ridges of the wound,
the other tugging at the stiff black thread.

--------

Another by O'Rourke's Halflife from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "In 'Thermopylae' (literally 'hot gates'), we see a love affair during a visit to a childhood home. A scene of passion is jump-cut with the famous battle of Thermopylae, the Greeks' failed resistance against invading Persians," writes Mary Karr. "The inspiring Spartans probably knew they were doomed, but their sacrifice permitted Athenians to escape. In the poem's lovemaking scene, the speaker is subversively stitched to her lover (his bookshelves suggesting he reads ancient history), as they join the family tapestry. In the final two lines, the ridges actually exist inside the woman's body, and the stiff tapestry thread evokes painfully tugged hair. Such dense cosmology permits O'Rourke her rich, psychological textures."

I had a great day at the Renfaire with my family and [livejournal.com profile] dementordelta! When we got there, we saw Barely Balanced's acrobatics, then had fish & chips at the place near the stage while Empty Hats was playing. Then we went to the Boarshead Brawl -- the point of which is always to throw drinks in people's faces, toss people out of second-story windows, knock people into the big tub and make bathroom jokes, so the kids love it. We saw the Renaissance Vaudeville team, which includes their dogs ("this is what you can do with a liberal arts degree") and stayed at the Endgame Stage for the abbreviated version of The Tempest. Miranda was portrayed as a giggly bimbo, which I could have lived with, but they cut both Caliban's "Be not afear'd; the isle is full of noises" and Prospero's "Our revels now are ended" speeches! Grrrr!

After the play, we walked a bit around the shops. At the mint, I had a coin made with the Chalice Well on one side and the Holy Grail on the other. We also stopped in the scriptorium/bookstore, several jewelry stores, the dragon hatchery (where they actually sell baby lizards), a couple of art galleries, the pirate ship armory and the glassworks. Late in the afternoon we went to see Barely Balanced's fire show at the Globe Theatre in which they not only perform acrobatics and juggling, but do so with knives and torches. Next on the schedule was the Ultimate Joust; with the theme this year being a visit to England by Ivan the Terrible and his knights, Russian villainy becomes the excuse for fighting and blowing things up. The Pennsylvania Faire has less serious jousting than its Maryland counterpart, but they always do a big bang at the finale and I really enjoyed seeing the number of women who ride as knights. Finally, we had dinner -- Spanish food (well, really Tex-Mex) for some of us, turkey legs and bread bowls for others. And we drove back to Maryland!


English and Muscovite knights clashed in the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire's jousting arena.


Before the competition, the queen greeted her loyal subjects.


Barely Balanced performed fabulous acrobatics during their morning show at the Boarshead Inn...


...and played with fire during their late show at the Globe Theatre.


This year the Faire includes demonstrations of falconry...


...and an abbreviated version of The Tempest in which both of these characters got their best speeches cut.


At the inn, Sir Robert Dudley and Sir Walter Raleigh managed to get a lot of people dunked.


And here are myself and [livejournal.com profile] dementordelta looking perky in our bright wench garb.
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