Saturday, September 13, 2008

Seamus Heaney

by Seamus Heaney (b. 1939)

The way we are living,
timorous or bold,
will have been our life.
Robert Lowell,

the sill geranium is lit
by the lamp I write by,
a wind from the Irish Sea
is shaking it —

here where we all sat
ten days ago, with you,
the master elegist
and welder of English.

As you swayed the talk
and rode on the swaying tiller
of yourself, ribbing me
about my fear of water,

what was not within your empery?
You drank America
like the heart’s
iron vodka,

promulgating art’s
deliberate, peremptory
love and arrogance.
Your eyes saw what your hand did

as you Englished Russian,
as you bullied out
heart-hammering blank sonnets
of love for Harriet

and Lizzie, and the briny
water-breaking dolphin —
your dorsal nib
gifted at last

to inveigle and to plash,
helmsman, netsman, retiarius.
That hand. Warding and grooming
and amphibious.

Two a.m., seaboard weather.
Not the proud sail of your great verse…
No. You were our night ferry
thudding in a big sea,

the whole craft ringing
with an armourer’s music
the course set wilfully across
the ungovernable and dangerous.

And now a teem of rain
and the geranium tremens.
A father’s no shield
for his child

you found the child in me
when you took farewells
under the full bay tree
by the gate in Glanmore,

opulent and restorative
as that lingering summertime,
the fish-dart of your eyes
risking, ‘I’ll pray for you.’

Friday, September 12, 2008


by Robert Lowell (1917-77)
an "imitation" of Boris Pasternak (1890-1960)

The much-hugged rag-doll is oozing cotton from her ruined figure.
Unforgetting September cannot hide its peroxide curls of leaf.
Isn't it time to board up the summer house?
The carpenter's gavel pounds for new and naked roof-ribs.

The moment the sun rises, it disappears.
Last night, the marsh by the swimming-pool shivered with fever;
the last bell-flowers waste under the rheumatic dewdrop,
a dirty lilac stain souses the birches.

The woods are discomforted. The animals
head for the snow-stopped bear holes in the fairy tales;
behind the black park fences, tree trunks and pillars
form columns like a newspaper's death column.

The thinning birchwood has not ceased to water its color --
more and more watery, its once regal shade.
Summer keeps mumbling, "I am only a few months old.
A lifetime of looking back, what shall I do with it?

"I've so many mind-bruises, I should give up playing.
They are like birds in the bushes, mushrooms on the lawn.
Now we have begun to paper our horizon with them
to fog out each other's distance."

Stricken with polio, Summer, le roi soleil,
hears the gods' Homeric laughter from the dignitaries' box --
with the same agony, the country house
stares forward, hallucinated, at the road to the metropolis.


Give the devil his due

The senator made a nice recovery.

To quote Miss Moore

To quote Miss Marianne Moore

"It is a curiosity of literature how often what one says of another, seems descriptive of oneself."

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin on Charlie Gibson

Like Messrs Sullivan and Dreher, I wasn't impressed. She took a question about national security, and tried to answer it with something about energy policy; she gave that distressing "don't blink" answer about "the mission" (electing John McCain? continuing the war? both?); she kept calling Charlie "Charlie," which got a little irritating after the 28th time. (Once or twice, no problem, but for heaven's sake, the guy knows his own name.)

Nothing as bad as that moment in the Bentsen/Quayle debate twenty years ago, but still ...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008



It's such a great word, I wanted it to appear at least once on this blog.

I kissed a girl

"I kissed a girl ... then I went to hell"

I don't think this sort of thing is terribly productive. (In fact, it might belong in the how-to-turn-a-questioning-teen-into-a-gay-rights-activist files.) But that being said, it should be noted that some people in this country would probably like to see the pastor prosecuted for "hate speech."

I heard on the news that he took the sign down -- supposedly because many in his flock were confused and hadn't heard the song.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sarah Palin

WASHINGTON - A new ad from John McCain's presidential campaign contends his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, "stopped the Bridge to Nowhere." In fact, Palin was for the infamous bridge before she was against it.

Oh, that clinches it. I'm voting for Obama now. Really.

Is this the best that the anti-Palin forces can come up with? This, and the fact that her pastor is promoting (or endorsing, or advertising, whatever) a conference whose aim is to pray that homosexuals change their behavior?

If Bill Clinton couldn't be derailed by the affairs and the draft-dodging, etc., I don't think that Gov. Palin is going to suffer too much from the revelations that she might be, after all, a politician of questionable soundness on economic matters.

This could very well be her moment. When even the least politically engaged among us seem to react positively to her ("the old guy with Sarah"), when the cultural élites (Oprah, the gays, the radical pro-abortionists, and a few perpetually smarmy libertarians) are telling us we can't vote for her, when McCain's poll numbers have gone from five points behind Obama to four points ahead ... then we're dealing with a phenomenon that shouldn't be, uhm, misunderestimated.

But before we get too bold in our predictions, let's see an interview or two, and maybe the debate.

Nativity of Mary

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father's immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse" (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).

Via Beliefnet Saint of the Day.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

More Sarah stuff

More Sarah stuff

Can't wait to see what Sully has to say about this. (Update, 4.35 pm : He's surprisingly non-apoplectic, but says pretty much what you might expect.)

My thoughts on the subject? I wouldn't be caught dead in her church, and I can't emphasize that enough, but this certainly isn't the sort of thing that would keep me from voting for the McCain/Palin ticket. (If I don't vote Republican in November, it'll be for better reasons than "her church wants to pray the gay away.")

Besides, the crowd that objects to this stuff is the same crowd that would object to the more nuanced, more Catholic, approach of a group like Courage. (Incidentally, I once heard something from one of the priests involved in Courage that struck me as exceedingly odd and borderline-stupid, but that's a subject for another day.)


I have a friend who works in a group home for adults with mental difficulties. One of the residents there is a lovable, chubby, childlike woman of about forty. She is in the habit of saying cute and funny things. (In part, because English is her second language.)

One day, my friend asked her, "L-----, do you know who's running for president?"

And she was quick to respond:

"I know! It's O-ba-ma ... and the old guy with Sarah."

Palin and the media

Palin and the media

Andrew Sullivan is outraged that Gov. Palin won't be granting any interviews for two weeks. If true, that looks very, very bad.

On the other hand, there's some trivial stuff that Sullivan and others have brought up.

They've been tweaking Sarah Palin about her mispronunciation of the word "nuclear," and ABC News (I think) reported that Palin's teleprompter at the convention spelled "new-clear" phonetically.

Okay. Do we tweak Princeton graduate Michelle Obama for her atrocious grammar ("the things that matter to Barack and I")? Do we become obsessive over the fact that she can't pronounce the "str" consonant-sequence without making a "shch" (as in "Khrushchev") sound? "Strong" becomes "shchrong"; "extraordinary" is "exshchroardinary."

And I know she's not on a nationwide ticket, but Rep. Maxine Waters says "nukular," too. I haven't heard anyone in the media mention that.