30 April 2006

national poetry month comes to an end

I've done a pretty terrible job with National Poetry Month; it was my intention to post poems on a regular basis, but I guess I just got lazy and forgetful. Story of my life. Anyway, I thought I'd post one more poem for the month, one I was only recently introduced to and immediately fell in love with. I can't tell you exactly what I love about this poem, because I'm the sort of poetry lover who usually can't explain what a poem means, or anything about it. I'm the type who loves a poem for the language, and the feelings and images that language evokes in me. I love it as an art form as much as I love any message or story a particular poem might have.

Before I post the poem (because it's long, and I don't expect that you'll all read to the end of it, though I highly recommend that you do), I'd like to put some questions to my readers (who, I've found, number perhaps six or seven, or possibly even eight, instead of the four I previously presumed): What are your favorite poems? Who are your favorite poets? Which poetry has really moved you? Post some good poetry in the comments; there's little I like better than being introduced to poetry and poets I haven't read. And please, no comments about hating poetry -- I'm convinced that anyone who says that just hasn't read the right poem yet. There's one out there for each of us.

And now, on to the poem:

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

*From Dante's Inferno; Guido da Montefeltro, a thirteenth-century Italian military and political leader, in the eighth cirlce of hell (fraud) tells Dante his story because he believes that Dante will never be able to repeat it: "If I thought my answer were to one who would ever return to the world, this flame should stay without another movement; but since none ever returned alive from this depth, if what I hear is true, I answer thee without fear of infamy."** Likewise, Prufrock tells his sad story because he thinks it will never be repeated.***

**From my copy of Dante's Inferno, translated by John D Sinclair, which I possess because I took an entire course on it in college -- just the Inferno, not Purgatorio or Paradiso; although I do own a copy of Purgatorio which I've never read, and probably never will, since without an Italian professor to explain Dante to me, he's a little over my head. The Inferno course was pretty good, though, and the cover art on my book shows a group of people missing various limbs; one guy is even holding his own decapitated head in his hands. Oh, so morbid, I love it.

***That is likely the only gem of poetical analysis you'll ever get from me, and I've only written that because I actually had to spend a few minutes looking up the Inferno reference, and thought that as long as I was looking it up, I might as well mention why Eliot included it. And I'm sure you could have figured it out on your own, but it's so rare that I make a conclusion or interpretation about poetry that I think is actually what the poet intended, that I needed to share my little moment of pride.


27 April 2006

cross your fingers for me

So, I had a job interview this morning, and I think it went really well. The position is a "Graduate Community Assistant" -- someone to organize and plan events to try and make the community where we live more interactive. I've already been doing some work in our community here, as well as party planning at James' nursery school, so I think I'll enjoy it. Greg and I would be kind of a team for this, and I think, for a variety of reasons, that they'll be offering the job to us. Of course I'm not sure yet, but I'm optimistic.

The best part by far is that instead of being paid, we'll have our rent reduced, which will save us a lot of money without affecting our taxes or my Medicaid coverage, which are both important things to not mess with at this point. And it will give us a chance to meet more people, be more social, and be more involved in the community, all good things. At first I was kind of like, "Eh, work," but now that I"ve had the interview I'm excited about more than the money and I'm really hoping that we'll get the position. Wish us luck!


26 April 2006

what a pity

I can't believe no one told me! Not only is Flock of Seagulls still touring (or touring again, perhaps), but they'll be in Rochester tomorrow night! If tickets weren't $18, and if I didn't already have plans for a busy evening of sitting around the house, I'd probably consider thinking about possibly going.

But seriously, I heard "Space Age Love Song" on the radio tonight, and that is truly a fine specimen of '80s pop.


if i should die before i wake

Today in the mail, I got my first-ever pamphlet from a cemetery about burial options. Okay, so it's addressed to "Resident", but that applies to me. So I thought I'd write a slightly morbid blog post about what should happen to my body when I die.

I've never been into the idea of traditional burial -- it seems kind of meaningless to me. I've attended many a funeral, and visited many a burial site, without ever feeling a shred of emotion or attachment to the place, to that hole in the ground, nor have I ever needed that physical location to remember and honor my deceased loved ones. I always kind of thought I'd like to be cremated, and have my ashes scattered, this being for a long time the only alternative I knew of to burial. But it turns out that cremation releases harmful gasses into the air, and burial leaks harmful chemicals into soil and water. So what's an eco-friendly girl to do? Why should we have to pollute to dispose of our dead?

I didn't really think about this much, though, until I read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (recommended, if you're into that sort of subject matter -- I found it really interesting), which talks about the variety of things done to bodies once their occupants have died. The idea of donating my body to science appealed to me at first, until I found out that some donated bodies are used for practicing plastic surgery, among other things. Call me shallow, or superficial, but there will be no plastic surgery performed on my dead face.

And then I read a really attractive idea, which may sound kind of terrible if you haven't heard of it before: human composting, a method developed by a Swedish ecologist (read about the process here). Then, thanks to my random pamphlet, I was doing some internet searching on burial options, and found out about green burials. What better way to spend death than to become part of the earth and help new life to grow and flourish? I've always thought cemeteries were a tremendous waste of space that could be turned into public housing or something. I do enjoy cemeteries such as Rochester's own Mt. Hope Cemetery (the resting place of Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass), which was designed (in the Victorian Era) to be a park and picnic area as well as a burial place, complete with gardens, picnic tables, benches, fountains, and a gazebo -- it's a lovely and fascinating place to visit. But so many cemeteries are not like that -- they're empty, silent, lonely. I love the idea of the green cemeteries mentioned in the article linked above -- "nature preserve first, cemetery second".

So someday, should all go as planned, my body will be laid to rest in an ecologically-friendly way. Of course, I'm an organ donor, so that'll be taken care of first, but then a green burial, or composting, should it become available in the US by the time I die. I do feel a little odd for thinking about this in so much detail, and actually researching it a bit, when I'm only 24 and I hope to live at least, oh, let's say 70 more years, to be optimistic. But I do think it's interesting in a larger sense to think about the land use, the pollution, and the impracticality of the traditional burial procedure. And I suppose it never hurts to be prepared.


25 April 2006

baby updates

It seems that every time Evan hangs out with his cousin, 6 weeks older than him, he learns something new and seems so much more grown-up by the time we get home.

This time, he's learned to wave good-bye, which is so totally adorable. He flaps his whole arm up and down, sometimes both, and sure, sometimes he's looking in the wrong direction, but it's charming just the same. He's also been more responsive over the last few days; for example, when we say the word "outside" he will point to the door, or when we say "light" he will look to the ceiling lights. The jury's still out as to whether or not he's intentionally saying words -- he'll babble "ba-ba-ba" when given a ball, and sometimes says "ow" when we talk about going outside -- but it's clear that his comprehension is really taking off.

And his cousin is not the only baby who inspires him -- yesterday we were visited by a friend of mine and her three children, two of whom are 3.5-month-old twins. Evan, in his excitement to see the babies (he really loves babies) actually walked across the entire living room, which is easily twice as far as he's ever voluntarily walked before.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly babies grown and learn. And it's never going to stop!


21 April 2006


Robert Wegman has died.

Any Rochesterian can tell you that Wegman's is the best grocery store in the entire world, and it's all because of the Wegman family. Any loss for Wegman's is a loss for the whole community.


time for another post on gender

My sister has a good post up about the cultural focus on little girls' appearances rather than personalities or accomplishments, and, consequently, the tendency of little girls to emulate this focus by idealizing princessses, while boys, on the other hand, are encouraged toward a more broad range of interests. Her post set me off on a whole variety of gender-related trains of thought, some of which I'm going to attempt to organize here.

It's interesting, the different challenges that parents face. Parents of girls who are aware, like my sister, of implicit cultural norms and standards, are faced with the challenege of raising girls to be independent, intellectual, creative beings despite the cultural imperative to be merely pretty and passive. Parents of boys, on the other hand, realize the need to encourage openness, sensitivity, and emotional awareness in a culture that encourages boys to be the strong, silent type. Parents of girls may be worrying that their daughters will be overly interested in princesses and fairies and other useless idols, while I'm worried that my sons will pick up on the cultural cues for boys to disdain "girly" things.

I still worry, even though I can see that James is growing up with a more gender-neutral childhood than many kids. His school environment certainly encourages this; school is where he picked up the "No Girls Allowed" refrain, but also where he learned why that's a harmful attitude. And the parents in our neighborhood are largely an enlightened bunch, and so, by extension, are their children. One of James' best friends in our neighborhood is a 7-year-old Chinese girl, and they spend a lot of their time building in the sandbox. For the most part, kids in our neighborhood are really inclusive, in terms of both gender and race, and that's one of the reasons I'm really grateful to have lived here -- there are probably few other environments where James could have had the exposure to so many different people, while in a tolerant, inviting community.

I have to share a moment of triumph I had recently in regards to gender. James, one morning, discovered some of my hair ties -- the double-ball elastics usually worn by 6-year-old girls -- and asked to try one. His hair's getting pretty long, so I was able to put the front of his hair into a little ponytail. He looked in the mirror and said, "I look like a girl!" and I said "You look great." He was happy with it and decided to wear his hair that way all day. Later that afternoon, we went to a friend's for a playdate. James' playmate opened the door and the first thing he said was, "You look like a girl!" James grinned and shouted, "Yeah!" and the two ran off to play without mentioning James' hair again. And that just made me smile.

I'll close with a pic of James and his ponytail -- ignoring the tongue, I think it's adorable:


16 April 2006

happy easter!

James in his new gardening gear

Evan loves to play in the dirt

James with our newly dyed Easter eggs

Highlights of the day: Both boys were delighted with their Easter presents (gardening tools, gardening gloves, and flower seeds for James; rubber balls with fake insects inside for Evan), not to mention the candy (which we really didn't do much of). We spent most of the afternoon weeding and planting in the garden. So far we have mint, marigolds, and chives. Evan had a grand old time flinging dirt around, and James started a Worm Rescue Operation (although he was disappointed to learn that it's not really rescue if he's tranfering them to a tree). We dyed eggs (first time for both me and James). And that pretty much covers it. A lovely day overall.


15 April 2006

how insulting!

So I've been uploading more videos to YouTube (now added to my links on the right) and minutes after I had posted an adorable video of James swimming last summer, someone, some stranger probably, watched it and rated it. And what rating did this viewer give? One star. One star out of five. Okay, now I know a three year old swimming with water wings is not the height of internet video entertainment, but surely it merits more than one star, if only for how cute he is!

Seriously, you do not tell a mother her child rates one star. That is just not done. It's like telling someone she has an ugly baby: first, she's going to be insulted, and second, she's not going to believe you anyway, so why bother?


14 April 2006

sick little boy

James is sick. He's had a high fever since yesterday afternoon. At first I thought he was pretending to take a nap to get out of picking up the living room, but then when he actually fell asleep I knew something wasn't right. So he is having lots of rest and lots of fluids, and we're in wait-and-see mode for now.

It's always a tremendously sad thing when your child is sick. Especially something vague and, as yet, untreatable, because you feel so helpless. Your child feels terrible and you can't necessarily fix it. But on the flip side, when there's an easy cure like antibiotics, it's so rewarding to feel as though you've healed your child.

Trying to look on the bright side though: a sick child gives you more unprompted "I love you"s and thank yous than at any other time, because he is so grateful for anything you do that makes him feel a little better. He also snuggles more, because he is sleepier and in need of comfort and actually sitting still for more than five minutes at a time.

Here's hoping it's just a quick little virus that runs its course quickly.


13 April 2006

recent developments

A quickie, just to let y'all know what's going on lately:

  • Evan is now practically sleeping through the night. Seriously, "almost" is great when it means getting up twice per night as opposed to 4, 5, or occasionally 8 times a night.
  • Evan is also beginning to walk alone. This is good, because he's proving to be not nearly so reckless with walking as he's been with everything else.
  • Signed up this morning for swimming lessons while school is out next week. James loved swimming lessons last year, and Evan seems to be half-dolphin, so this is good.
  • I turned in an application for a job today, so cross your fingers for me. This could be a very good thing for us, and I'll say more if it gets beyond the application stage.


09 April 2006

a new easter tradition

This year is the first time that we'll be spending Easter alone as a family. In the past we've always gone to my mom's house, and had the same kind of Easter celebration I've been having since I was a kid. This year, for the first time ever, I don't have to do that. Not that there's anything wrong with the way I've spent Easter all of my life, but I'm starting to like the idea of creating our own family traditions.

Greg is the textbook example of an atheist, and I've labelled myself an agnostic -- part of my overall undecisive nature, I suppose, to say that I can't really know for sure and won't completely exclude any option that hasn't been disproved. But we were both raised Christian, and we were raised with Christian traditions, and we both see the value in those traditions even if we don't really believe in the Resurrection.

So we're making our Easter celebration a celebration of spring. This is one of my favorite times of year -- new life, the earth becoming green again, the return of beauty after a long dead winter. It's kind of an excuse to do the eggs and bunnies and chocolate crap, because what's an American holiday without consumerism? But we're also going to focus on the newness of things in the spring. We're going to plant flowers and dye Easter eggs, and hopefully we can use this holiday to help our kids better appreciate the natural world and all of its magic. And I think it's appropriate that Earth Day follows so closely on the heels of Easter: on Easter we can focus on appreciating the new life and growth of spring, and on Earth Day we can focus on caring for the earth, because of that appreciation for nature.

On a related note, my niece's birthday is on Earth Day, and my family will all be gathering at my mom's house to celebrate. Last year for Earth Day, a group of people in our neighborhood walked around together to pick up litter and clean up the public areas. Well, James loves his cousin, and is excited about her birthday party, but he was genuinely distressed when he heard that we wouldn't be here to pick up the neighborhood on Earth Day. I had to make him a promise that we would go for a walk to pick up litter in Grandma's neighborhood. So I think our environmentalism is already beginning to rub off on the kid.


05 April 2006

national poetry month

I'm a few days late, but April is National Poetry Month, and there's practically nothing I like better than an excuse to read and talk about poetry. So I thought I'd post a favorite poem or two (or three or four...) throughout the month, although it's a pretty formidable task to choose just a few favorites. Plath, cummings, Neruda, Angelou, Whitman... where do I begin?

But when I think about my love of poetry, there is a clear answer to that question, because there is one poem that sparked in me a more mature and passionate understanding of poetry than I had previously had. It wasn't until I heard this particular poem read aloud by a poetry professor in college that poetry really came alive for me. All of a sudden it was more than words on a page -- this poem was a real, living thing, and it was read so beautifully that I immediately fell in love with the professor reading it. (For the rest of my college career I tried to enroll in a poetry class with this professor, but was never able to fit it in. Alas.)

It doesn't do the poem justice to merely print it here, because the printed word lacks the emotion stirred inside by a passionate human voice, but it's the best I can do under the circumstances.

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


03 April 2006

a few items of business

1. Can y'all let me know if you're able to watch the video I posted? I think I've fixed things so that it should work for everyone, so if you couldn't see it before, try again and let me know whether you can see it now.

2. I'm all about uploading videos now. You can see more of my wonderful family by clicking here (again, let me know if that works for you -- I think it will, but I'd like to be sure).

3. I briefly overcame laziness today and uploaded my photos from February and March. Click here to see the insane cuteness.

4. Interesting posts will resume one of these days, I promise.