My Cup Runneth Over: Two Readings, A Play and a Marathon

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!

It’s been a busy week and a half, filled with lots of readings, dinners and an unhealthy amount of TV-watching.

Last Wednesday, CityBoy and I met at the Atlantic Gallery on West 29th for a combination exhibit and reading, “River/Rust.”  Pamela Talese creates these amazing documentary-like oil paintings of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she’s been working on location since 2005.  Her exhibit, aptly named “Rust Never Sleeps,” is a vivid homage to this not-often viewed and somewhat vanishing world of maritime building and shipping.  That night, Jessica DuLong was also reading from her new book, My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson.  DuLong is a former dot-com worker, who has become a fireboat engineer after an initial excursion on the Hudson turned into a newfound passion.  What I loved about DuLong and her reading was the enthusiasm she brings to and focuses on this declining industry–she is an articulate speaker and writer and obviously feels reborn by her new vocation.  I remember thinking how happy she must be to know that this is not our only life.

On Thursday, I got the unexpected opportunity to hear Elie Wiesel speak about Satan at the 92nd Street Y.  I haven’t actually read any of his work–a gaping hole in my reading life, I know–but I’d of course heard about him: Holocast survivor, noted writer and philosophizer, acclaimed speaker.  What struck me was his calm questioning of the subject (Satan: The Image and Concept in Ancient Jewish Texts), knowing how viscerally he’d been impacted by real-life evil.  Most of the stories he discussed in his talk were unfamiliar to me and I kept thinking how I wished CityBoy was with me, him being so interested in religion and the concept of good and evil.  Early in the evening, Wiesel rattled off a litany of questions about Satan:  who is Satan? what does he look like? what is his role? who is Satan’s Satan?  This last one stayed with me as I walked home and I wrote a poem about it:

Satan’s Satan

Satan has been burning ants again.

There he is, tucked behind the flaking porch,

crouched low over the snaking line

of black bodies, connect-the-dots

between pock-marked earth

and their cannibal’s feast

of decaying beetle husk.

It is slow work, painstaking,

keeping the hot eye of the magnifying

glass trained on one dark body,

isolating his chosen with the sun’s

focused white beam.

It’s alright, Satan’s Satan says.

They can’t feel a thing.

At school, they study the nervous

system, Teacher pointing out

the delicate webbing of nerve cord

and ganglia wrapping the earthworm’s

body, tip to tip. Peeled back

on the dissecting tray, the worm

is grey and blobbish–not at all

like the multi-colored diagrams

propped on the desk, bright

red blood vessels, the female’s

pulsing green ovaries.

The ants have regrouped, channeling

one thought: move this thing.

Satan pokes it with one finger,

part of the beetle’s carapace,

hard shell that scrapes along the rough

ground, gathering granules of sand,

bits of grass, marshaled along

by the ants’ ferocious plan.

He can see them diagrammed,

head, thorax, abdomen,

mandibles and antennae

constantly twitching, moving,

tasting. Satan’s Satan

tells him: ready the magnifier.

The following Wednesday, my friend J. (she of the extra tickets) invited me to Brighton Beach Memoirs.  I thought I’d seen the movie version sometime in high school, but I didn’t recognize the play at all, except the young Eugene Jerome character, presumably Neil Simon’s stand-in and the teenaged wise-cracking writer-in-training.  The play is good fun, with enough dramatic gravitas from the impending World War and the family’s financial difficulties to undercut the belly laughs.  Laurie Metcalf (of Roseanne) plays Eugene’s mother and some of the comic moments are a little too heavy-handed, as though the actors wanted to make sure everyone in the theater got it.  The theater itself is quite small, with 18 rows on the main floor and a small balcony above.  The odd thing was that the actors had to cut through the back of the audience as they were getting on and off stage, which became quite distracting as family members come and go throughout the course of the play.  J. and I agreed that the best scenes were between the Jerome brothers, older brother Stanley being especially quick-witted and playful.

This weekend is the New York City Marathon, with thousands of runners converging on the city.  This year, the race falls over Halloween, so we’re expecting plenty of costumed teams and individual runners.  One of CityBoy’s friends has flown in from Japan to join in the madness, so we’ll be up plenty early tomorrow morning to cheer him on.  I can barely run for 5 minutes, much less for 5 hours, so I haven’t a clue how or why they do it.  Maybe it’s like Everest–you see it and you gotta do it.

Rock on, people.



4 Responses to “My Cup Runneth Over: Two Readings, A Play and a Marathon”

  1. Ja'net November 4, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    Wow. The poem is awesome.

    • thatjhoanna November 21, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

      Thanks so much, Ja’net. Your opinion, as you know, is very important to me. This poem was actually a joy to write. The first lines came very easily and I loved having to research the earthworm and ant parts online–so many great diagrams out there. I’m hoping there are a few more Satan poems in me.

  2. Jessica DuLong February 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    “I remember thinking how happy she must be to know that this is not our only life.”

    I’m still thinking about this, that you wrote months ago.

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m enjoying your posts.

    All the best,

    • jhointhecity February 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

      Jessica – going to your event was such an unexpected pleasure. I knew nothing about your book or Pamela Talese’s paintings (I still have the promo card with one of her paintings on my desk) but I’m so glad I went. This idea of reinvention and finding your passion is on my mind a lot these days. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
      – Jho

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