“For one of the first pressures that bear down on American girls is the pressure not only to be liked but to be like everyone else. This initial feat of self-transformation often involves loosening one’s grip on that quiet sense of inner self and hitching one’s wagon to a single standard of beauty. The stress of leaping through that hoop insinuates itself into the young heart and soul with a vengeance, and insecurities go from being hard little buds of confusion to overripe, snarled and tyrannical fruits that hang on the vine as we age.” ~ Debra Ollivier, What French Women Know About Love, Sex and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind
A Poly-Grecian Urn: Wal-Mart, Easter Weekend, 1998
Half-ravished by the first light touch of sun
on winter-languid skin, and air’s slow stir—
ardent, close—across bare limbs, we’ve come
for potting soil, for silver-bladed trowels,
for the brightest daubs of color we can bear
away, pre-blossomed in black plastic flats
of vinca, dianthus, pansies. Months too late
to raise the tulips’ complex pulse, we praise
instead the ready-made, until it takes
the squat shape of this bastard child of Keats.
Maybe we’ve come to this—all that remains,
the pointless simulacrum of a choice:
white or green, it’s plastic either way,
machine-stamped in the hollow shape of loss.
Or is this too much to make of a cardboard nest
of two-part urns, bowls and bases packed
as snug as bullets in a magazine,
arranged for sale in monochromatic stacks,
the scraps of half-truth and cheap beauty rent
to pieces by this dying century?
The two of us are young enough to dream
we’ll make it out alive, somehow escape
the burden of our genes and history
to start again, unstained. From the rotting corpse
of a lion he’d killed, Samson took honey, ate,
and found it sweet, but then slew thirty men
because of it. Like him, we crave the taste
of something drawn from death, but can’t be sure
if fingers drip with syrup or with gore.
Or both. Nothing we touch is innocent.
A block away, pale-bellied leaves, wind-wheeled,
invoke the storm, but just beyond the gate,
my neighbor’s yard’s a fuchsia-tinted peace
of statuary petals, as if the air
were stunned to silence, stillness, by the brute
beauty of a redbud’s blooms. I go inside,
come back to limbs still shaking, stripped of leaf
and blossom, and sidewalks scrawled in a green hand
just clear enough for me to read the truth,
that beauty couldn’t even save itself.
I fill the urn with pansies, purple, white,
and pink, but nothing lives past the first rain,
when water pools around a sodden welt
of storm-pressed flowers. The planter doesn’t drain;
its certitude drowns everything I put
in it. I dump the slop of store-bought loam
and flaccid stems, then cut thin slits to bleed
the water out, and try again, a need
to keep something alive, if nothing more
than these doomed blossoms in a plastic pot.
On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.
A list of some of NASA’s greatest achievements:
1958: First US Spacecraft.
1961: First US Astronaut
1969: Man on the Moon
1972: Pioneer 10 launched to photograph Jupiter.
1973: Pioneer 11 to photograph Saturn
1990: Hubble Space Telescope launched
1973: Skylab first space experimental station
1977: Voyagers were launched to explore outer space
1999: X-Ray Telescope launched to photograph supernovas and black hole
1975: Mars Exploration and Rover landing
Happy 55th birthday NASA!
I wind my way across a black donut hole
and space that clunks.
Once I saw on a stage,
as if at the bottom of a mineshaft,
the precise footwork
of some mechanical ballet.
It was like looking into the brain
of a cuckoo clock and it carried
some part of me away forever.
No one knows when they first see a thing,
how long its after image will last.
Proust could stare at the symptom of a face
for years, while Frank O’Hara, like anyone with a job,
was always looking at his watch.
My favorite way of remembering is to forget.
Please start the record of the sea over again.
Call up a shadow below the pendulum of a gull’s wing.
In a city of eight million sundials, nobody has any idea
how long a minute really is.
~ Elaine Equi
Music by Alex North from 2001: A Space Odyssey (based on “Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss)