A Poem for Monday

Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может,
В душе моей угасла не совсем;
Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
То робостью, то ревностью томим;
Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.

When I get drunk, especially when I get vodka drunk, I tend to recite that poem.  Not the whole thing.  I can’t remember the whole thing anymore, which is why I was so tickled to find it on the internet.  But the first three lines, I can spit those out no problem and when I get drunk and melancholy, I usually do.

I don’t really remember any Russian any more.  I can say “Hello” and “Good-bye” and “It’s necessary for me to have beer (or vodka),” but that’s about it.

I like Pushkin for a lot of reasons it’s too hot in my house to go into right now.  But I like that Pushkin loved Gogol.  Gogol wrote “The Nose”–the story of a bureaucrat whose nose one day falls off and goes on to have far greater success in life than him.

To me, it shows remarkable taste for Gogol to love a man who could write a story like that.

Anyway, I’m no good at translation.  I have no idea what makes a good translation.  With Pushkin, I guess, you want to get some sense of how the words rock against each other, like two old lovers who meet up again on a dance floor and, whether it’s the music or the alcohol or just that familiar flank under your fingertips again, you forget for the evening why it didn’t work out and indulge yourself.

In a poem like this, maybe getting that rhythm right is especially important, since we have two old lovers, meeting up again.  The speaker starts–I loved you once and there may still be a little love in my soul.  I don’t want anything from you.  But here are all of the ways I loved you (the saddest being, in my opinion, “without hope”).  What love I hope you find with another!  Or maybe you’d say, and by god, I hope you can find a love like that with someone else.

I don’t think there’s any reason to suspect he’s being snarky.  I think he really does wish her well.

I kind of think that’s a nice sentiment for a poem–my misery is what it is, but your life should be better; I hope your life is better.

Men–What’s Going Right

It’s been a hard stretch for men lately (well, except for the ones who want to keep 17 year old girls in a bunker in their back yards–bully day for you, apparently), with a man mass murdering some folks, another man holing himself up at the Space Center and offing a hostage before he offed himself, another man running this country and a couple of important wars with an attitude so cavalier it never fails to surprise me, and the usual right-wing talking heads arguing that, if only there wasn’t such a crisis in masculinity at the moment, we’d all be running around with guns, keeping the peace with only the merest squint of our steely blue eyes.

Men.

What has gone wrong with you?

I’m going to tell you what. I’m going to argue that, even though I agree that masculinity is in transition, there isn’t anything going wrong and, in fact, there’s a lot going right.

I was thinking about it after y’all were talking about what men can do to help redefine masculinity in a way that isn’t precursed on some notion of dominating women and then it came up again today when I was reading Jonathan Hickman’s post about how weird it is that people are surprised by how much of a roll he wants to take with his upcoming kid.

I actually think that this is a positive side of divorce (I think we’ve talked about this before).  What we’ve seen, folks of my generation, first as kids who either went through our parents’ divorces or now through our own divorces with our own kids, is that men, by and large, when given the opportunity to parent (or when forced because there’s no one to bail them out) rise spectacularly to the occasion.  And divorce (regardless of everything else) does give men the opportunity to occasionally, regularly be the primary caregiver.

These divorced dads who’ve taken to being the primary caregiver, who enjoy it and who have flourished while doing it, are, I think, the primary factor in the changing face of masculinity.  Of course, men have always liked kids and kids, in return, have liked men.

But there have been two somewhat contradictory narratives about men and children that have, I think, prevented men during the industrial age from fully realizing themselves as parents (with, of course, all the appropriate caveats and exceptions).  One is that men spend regimented time with children.  Men are Scout Masters.  Men coach Little League.  Men lead the Youth Group.  Men teach you to drive.  Leave the touchy-feely stuff to the women.  The other is that, outside of a certain narrow band of activities–like drinking, working for a living, and being a jackass–men are inept, bumbling idiots.

Well, who would leave a small baby or a child with an inept, bumbling idiot who only knows how to have regimented time with them?

No good mother, that’s for sure.

So, of course, men aren’t inept, bumbling idiots and not all time with kids has to be regimented and once men had time with children–the long stretches of time afforded by the weekend visit or the summers together–I think y’all began to know this in your hearts.

It’s going to be a long time coming, this change, and I’m not sure what all it’s going to involve, but having men know in their hearts that they can take care of another life all by themselves for long stretches of time where not every minute is going to be filled with planned things and that they’re going to be fine at doing it–that’s going to be a tremendous improvement in the lives of men.

Hell, that’s going to be and already is a tremendous improvement for us all.

South Carolina, What the Fuck?

If you are from South Carolina or follow the news more closely coming from South Carolina than I do, please, please explain to me whether there is something more to this story than what Yahoo is reporting.

A convicted sex offender builds a bunker under a tool shed to “store marijuana.”  Two girls accuse him of kidnapping and raping them and he gets off?

Help me understand this.

Living in the Third World in the First World

In 2005, the infant mortality rate for black babies in Mississippi was 17 in 1,000.  Bosnia has a lower infant mortality rate than that.  You’d be better off being born in French Guiana than as a black kid in Mississippi–your chances of making it to your first birthday would be greater.

The New York Times reports that progress lowering infant mortality rates in the South has stalled and some states, including Tennessee, are reporting upticks.

America.  We are a wealthy country.  I know we don’t like to share our wealth with each other, but damn, a kid should have a shot at making it to his first birthday.

Yes, parents should step up and take responsibility, but how long have y’all been saying that?  And when have you ever seen it work on a wide scale?  And how can you sit by and say, “Well, parents should step up and take responsibility” and do nothing when, if parents can’t or won’t step up, babies die?

I mean, not to be an asshole, my beloved anti-abortion readers, but what is the fucking use of making it so damn hard on Southern women to get abortions if you’re just going to sit by and do nothing while communities in our region have infant mortality rates of 17 per 1,000, if you’re just going to sit by while our infant mortality rate stalls and slowly climbs?

I’m sorry, folks, but now is the time to put your money where your mouths are.  If you are seriously pro-life, you need to start pressuring your lawmakers into funding programs that focus on prenatal care and into funding care for infants and children.

There is no excuse–not from the parents, not from the local communities, not from the “pro-life” movement, and not from the people in our larger community (namely us)–that cuts it as to why we’re going to make it so damn hard for women to make any choice but to have babies and then sit idly by while those babies die.

The hypocracy of that stinks.  And the evilness of standing around cutting programs while babies die?

We all have an obligation to stand up in the face of that.

No, we are not Mississippi, but we are Tennessee and we do provide medical care to the women of the Delta in Memphis.  Mississippi’s choices have a direct effect on us.

Not to mention the fact that Mississippi’s policies are not so different than ours.

Mississippi’s dead babies ought to give us great pause and encourage us to demand answers from our lawmakers about what they’re doing to address our infant mortality rates.