Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Beast Is No Slouch

Here's another one I got from an attempt to work magic among the monuments.

The Jefferson Stone

One who knows but doesn't often say told me the story:
In their time a stone was laid to mark the line,
But in our time the line no longer lies there.

When it comes to when and how the stone was moved
Most are dumb and others play so, but it's a fact
That the stubby pointer of granite, placed to trip up
Night stumblers on the nation's lawn, has had its
Privileged distinction rudely chiseled from its face.

A decoy? A masked king? The work of our enemies
Or of our protectors? It's a politician's periodic game
To seek to shift boundaries, even to the way
We measure time. Change the calendars! comes the command
From men of reason whose grip on power starts to slip.
Or perhaps it was the stonecutters who constructed the canals of Mars,
Or a simple flock of sheep, nosing and shoving their fellows aside
For the sweetest grass, beside that swamp our fathers called the Tiber.
A meridian, after all, is only a convention, a relative
Construction; we are free to move the center where we may.

And before the question leaves me, he has the answer:
No, knowing all this doesn't make it any easier.

The error's magnitude shakes the poles; latitude
And longitude unmoored, the straight tracks cracked,
The cables that held the grid snap and coil like dreams of snakes,
The freestone obelisk thrusts through the asphalt,
The rings of the astrolabe clang to the concrete
And are carted off for scrap by looters.
Far off, on a vessel navigating the rising waters,
The boy, climbing the rigging, lifts the glass
And spies not a New World but an ancient one
Rising from the sea. The heart was not
Where you have been told the heart must be.

This is also kind of about WikiLeaks, which I was trying to explain to my daughter this morning. We had some deep discussions and questions about what you would do if you knew a secret that was hurting someone. When is it right to tell a secret? We worked some things out about going to a grownup (like me, she's still young enough for that).

But I'm still wondering about knowledge and what good it does. Will these leaks make any difference? Is it corrupted information to start with? What's the real motivation? We've been told for years now that information is the new currency, but it hasn't paid for my rent, grits or groceries yet. The CEO of Project Vigilant certainly seems to think it's worth something--I have to laugh that even McCarthyesque spying and snooping has been outsourced to a private corporation that is vigorously marketing itself by riding the headlines. Is my occasional sexting really worth something to somebody? Who? Why? And how much? Those are some journalist-type questions I kind of sort of remember from way back.

Photo: The Noyes armillary sphere, formerly residing in Meridian Hill Park. The photo's in public domain, so I don't know why it's got this guy's name all up in it, but his blog is a fascinating piece of work, so why not add a plug. I've got a note into the dude to find out what the deal is with using the photo.

UPDATE: It really is a great website; more sites about DC cartography, please! Anyway, he says he tags the photos that he hunts down and processes, which makes sense, and asked for a direct link the page that talks about the armillary sphere. Here we go, and thank you Mr. Schiller.


Anonymous said...

The devaluation and corruption of information in America has risen steadily since the rise of Newt Gingrich and the concerted effort on the right began to wholly discredit the intentions of the country's news media. The pollution eventually infected our Congress and then, in people who were too young or not smart enough to get the cynicism behind it, became gospel.
John Greenwald and Michelle Lecomte just died. They'd know the score.
-- J.S.

Maria Padhila said...

I had no idea. Thank you for telling me. I just looked up the obit and some tributes to Michelle. What I remember was the extent of her literary knowledge and understanding. One of those people you could reference an obscure women writer and she'd not only know but tell you something you didn't know or hadn't grasped. I am very sad she went so young and even more so that she had any pain.
Greenwald was very kind to me and cut me some major breaks. (Michelle never gave me a break, thank goodness.)