Friday, May 26, 2006

Overdue Friday lit. blogging: Franz Wright

The Only Animal

The only animal that commits suicide
went for a walk in the park,
basked on a hard bench
in the first star,
traveled to the edge of space
in an armchair
while company quietly
talked and abruptly
the room empty.

The only animal that cries
that takes off its clothes
and reports to the mirror, the one
and only animal
that brushes its own teeth—


the only animal that smokes a cigarette,
that lies down and flies backward in time,
that rises and walks to a book
and looks up a word
heard the telephone ringing
in the darkness downstairs and decided
to answer no more.

And I understand,
too well: how many times
have I made the decision to dwell
from now on
in the hour of my death
(the space I took up here
scarlessly closing like water)
and said I’m never coming back
and yet

this morning
I stood once again
in this world, the garden
ark and vacant
tomb of what
I can’t imagine,
between twin eternities,
some sort of wings,
more or less equidistantly
exiled from both,
hovering in the dreaming called
being awake, where
You gave me
in secret one thing
to perceive, the
tall blue starry

strangeness of being
here at all.

You gave us each in secret something to perceive.

Furless now, upright, My banished
and experimental

You said, though your own heart condemn you
I do not condemn you.

Kitty gone. Mama sad.

Recently we had to put our cat, Marcus, to sleep. He was not exactly a kitten at age 14, and after fighting gastrointestinal cancer for two and a half years, he was pretty much on his 9th life. But even though he was old and sick and we were expecting it, the loss of a pet brings its own unique kind of misery.

If you're not an animal person, this will probably sound strange to you. But now that he's gone, the emptiness in our house is palpable. I adopted Marcus from an animal shelter eight years ago. I knew him longer than I've known my husband.

He used to sprint from room to room in my old apartment at lightning speed (the cat, not the husband). When Marcus stalked the mysterious little flying bugs that showed up in that apartment periodically, he would sometimes leap into the air and catch one between his front paws. He'd sit on the back of the couch and look out the window and watch the birds. And when I was trapped in the claustrophobic grip of depression, he'd come silently up beside me and gaze at me with his deep green eyes, and purr. His purr sounded like an outboard motor.
When I slept on my stomach, he would curl up on my back. When he wanted to wake me up to give him breakfast, he'd gently lick my eyelids or my cheeks, or pat my arm with his paw.

Marcus put up with two house moves and the addition of a new human daddy and human little sister, all without the slightest complaint. And then he got cancer and we had to start giving him pills every day, which he hated. But his quality of life was undiminished for the most part, until shortly before he died.

He had been a fairly big cat, with long, glossy black fur that remained beautiful up until the end, but in his last couple of months he lost a lot of weight and became very bony. Then about two days before he died, he stopped eating. Twenty-four hours before he died, he was still jumping up on the couch. But the morning we decided to have him put to sleep, Marcus couldn't jump up anymore -- he couldn't even walk.

I carried him to his favorite windowsill in our living room so he could watch the blue jays in the trees that morning. I held Marcus in my arms when the vet administered the needle. He went out of our lives without a sound.

The Peanut looked from room to room for Marcus for a while, but now has stopped searching. But occasionally she will still say "Kitty?" in a questioning way, and I'll respond, "Kitty gone." And she will nod her head sagely and say "Kitty gone. Mama sad."

Journalism's finest hour

I swear to God, my head is about to explode. Just go read this, uh, "profile" of Bill Frist in the freaking Washington Post -- NOT The Onion -- but make sure you have a bucket handy, because it's going to make you want to heave.

Meanwhile, as the excellent Harry Shearer points out on Huffington Post, the whore-iffic New York Times has run a front-page story claiming the levees are pretty much fixed in New Orleans -- and buried the inconvenient news that they're actually, well, not so much fixed ("The overall New Orleans flood protection system...must be considered suspect") in the last paragraph.

I had a crotchety old journalism professor (is there any other kind?) named Seth King at Boston University who would have blown a gasket had this spectacular display of ass-kissing, ignoring of inconvenient facts, and general ineptitude been in evidence in the news business back then. (Back in the distant past of 1988, when I took his Journalism 101 class.)

I have no idea if old Seth is even still among the living, but if he's not, he is surely spinning in his grave.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Biggest public issue of the day: the Clintons' marriage

Today the New York Times returned to its late 1990s all-Clenis-all-the-time glory days with a front page dissection of Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage.

Because it's not like there's anything else going on in Washington or in the rest of the country that you might want to devote your reporting resources to, if you were supposed to be one of the premier newspapers in the United States.

It's not like there's an unnecessary war going on or anything.

Or an entire American city lost to a hurricane and flood nine months ago, with practically none of the rubble cleaned up yet, and the next hurricane season about to begin.

Or a massive coordinated government effort to spy on the activities of ordinary citizens.

Or an unprecedented looming environmental catastrophe.

No, the most pressingly important issue in America today is how much time Bill and Hill are spending together these days. This is what they apparently think, over there at the New York Times. I would give any amount of money to hear what goes on in the editors' daily news meeting. What exactly is the thought process that leads to the conclusion that speculation over the personal lives of political figures is more important than what political figures ACTUALLY DO in their official capacities -- good, bad and indifferent? Why are the personalities deemed to be so much more important than the policies?

And WHY, for the love of all that is holy, does the press still think that Bill Clinton's mistakes have more impact on the country than George W. Bush's mistakes? Are they really that clueless? They actually think that we care more about Clinton having an affair than we do about the shredding of the Constitution and the killing and maiming of God knows how many people, in our name and funded by our tax dollars, FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dear Peanut...

Dear Peanut:

In celebration of my second Mother's Day, I thought it would be a good time to write you a little letter and tell you how very very blessed I am to be your mama.

Of course I fell in love with you as soon as I saw you, but it's been even more amazing to get to know you and to realize that you are developing a strong personality of your own. I know you get frustrated sometimes because you are so perceptive and smart, and you want to try to do things that, at 19 months, are still beyond your reach. That's when you get mad and start howling and sometimes smack me or your daddy. But I love that as soon as we remind you about our "no hitting" rule, you get that look of concern on your face, because you know we don't like that, and you fling your arms around us to make sure we aren't really mad at you. Which we couldn't possibly be.

I love the way you seem to understand a scary amount of what is going on around you, and the way you make your requests undeniably clear. You want cheese and crackers for breakfast, every day, and you're going to keep telling us so even though we keep giving you Eggos and bananas. I guess you're thinking that, dense though we are, eventually we'll figure it out and serve up your cheese plate at 6 a.m.

I love the way you look slightly concerned and say "Mine!" when other kids climb onto the playground equipment you happen to be using at the time. But you never go and push anybody off of it.

I promise to teach you to be as strong and independent and fearless as you can possibly be, and to love yourself no matter what you look like or what you weigh. (But if present trends continue, and "beautiful" and "gorgeous" remain people's first reactions when they meet you, I'll try to teach you to deal with that reality, without becoming too full of yourself because of it.)

I hope very much that you grow up to love science and math like your daddy, so that your first job out of college pays way more than the slave wages I earned for my first journalism gig. And I pray that all through your school years you'll be able to look the bullies in the eye with pity and laugh.

I'm so grateful that you came into my life.



Friday, May 12, 2006

"...let Facts be submitted to a candid world..."

Are we ready for a new Declaration of Independence yet? How far gone will things be in this country before people start to wake up?


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these States; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King George is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Here's the facts, then:

  • World Trade Center: Gone
  • New Orleans: Drowned; abandoned
  • Middle class: Disappearing
  • Rich: Getting richer, thanks to tax cuts
  • Poor: Screwed
  • Environment: Raped
  • Civil liberties: Obliterated
  • Corporations: Fat and happy
  • America's armed forces: Sent to die for no reason

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spring in New England

My head is so congested from the freakish amount of pollen in the air that my eyeballs feel like they're about to shoot out of my skull, and yet when I left the house this morning, it was so cold that I wished I had gloves on.

Welcome to spring in New England, shortly to be followed by summer in New England, which for the past several years has featured rain forest levels of humidity.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Story of the weekend

This past weekend, Mr. Fraulein and the Peanut and I took a road trip to lovely Brattleboro, VT, to visit some friends of ours and their 5- and 2-year-old daughters. Much dessert and many brunch items were consumed, innumerable baby dolls were played with, and, in spite of a few minor toddler tantrums, fun was had by all. I have to share this great story about an excellent comeback by the 5-year-old, little A., to an overbearing relative.

The way my friend S., A.'s mommy, tells it, during a recent family gathering, they were introduced to S.'s uncle's new wife, who apparently at one time was a noteworthy ballet dancer. (At least, according to New Wife herself.) Upon being introduced to A., and hearing that A. is very fond of her ballet classes, New Wife proceeded to drill the 5-year-old on her knowledge of the ballet positions, etc. She also rather condescendingly insisted that in the future, A. would look back on this meeting with no small amount of awe, since she would then know what a famous onetime-dancer she had met.

"I used to be a ballerina," New Wife smugly pronounced.

To which A. responded: "I'm STILL a ballerina."

Colbert: Genius

Edward R. Murrow, meet Stephen Colbert. It's pretty pathetic that the best muckrakers today are comedians.