“The Mist”.

We did not drive to the coast yesterday — both Vincent & Lance had colds, so we went out for breakfast at Foxtowne Diner and walked to the playground in the morning, and had a quiet and restful afternoon. My idea of a good day.

Which I needed, because I woke up in a foul mood: on Saturday night, Lance & I watched “The Mist” on DVD, based on the novella by Stephen King. I don’t watch scary movies, because they’re scary movies, they give me nightmares, but Lance didn’t want to watch it alone. So I watched it with him (“Honey, could you turn that light out?” “NO.”). And as scary movies go, it was pretty damn good. Most horror flicks these days are just exercises in masochism & blood, but this was very character-driven. Which is why the ending is so awful. Not merely shocking, but wrong wrong wrong.

If you haven’t seen it, and don’t want to know the end, don’t read further, because the movie’s conclusion is different from the one for the novella, which leaves the characters driving through the mist, not sure where or if the mist ends. In the movie, after you’ve watched all the struggles & deaths of some great characters (how could they kill you, Ollie, o the injustice!) 5 characters make it to the Land Rover and drive off: the main character, his young son, a blonde school teacher, an older teacher played Frances Steenburgen, and an older man. They drive through scene after scene of wreckage until the gas runs out. This is where things go awry.

Now Lance tells me the following scene is an homage to a scene from the docudrama, “The Night that Panicked America,” which is about the airing of Orson Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” He says that part of that film focuses on a family’s reaction as they listen to the program on the radio: a father, mother, young son, and the grandparents, in a panic, flee their apartment by car. Driving down a tunnel, a firetruck approaches from the opposite direction. The father’s panicking, mistaking the firetruck for aliens, and he holds a gun in his hand — contemplates killing his family rather then letting them fall into the hands of aliens. Before he can do anything, the firetruck overtakes them, and tells them to go home, for crying out loud, this is a tunnel, what’re they doing, get out of the way. Chastened, they return home feeling foolish, but safe.

Back to “The Mist”: the father, child, woman, & older couple sit in the Land Rover surrounded by mist, out of gas, and hear ominous sounds approaching. By now we’ve seen all the awful creatures in the mist, so yes, we, the audience, are aware that they are in grave danger, stranded like that. But it’s been 2 hours, they’ve fought like hell to get that far, so when the father looks at the gun in his hand and counts how many bullets are left (“Four.” “But there are five of us.”), I don’t really believe he’ll do something so daft, especially to his sweet little boy. But the next scene pulls back to an external shot of the Land Rover — the interior flashes, four shots. Then back to the father, who howls into the steering wheel, then gets out of the car to call to the monsters to come and get him.

Instead, the cavalry arrives: the army, row upon row of tanks and soldiers with torches, and they push back the mist. The father sinks to his knees in horror. Roll credits.

Monsters didn’t keep me from sleeping that night, but outrage. And Lance, who made me watch the film in the first place, says, “But it’s only a movie.” Which is so breathtakingly beside the point.

I think this will all tie into poetry, or at least writing:

Maybe the filmmakers were going for an ironic ending, but it’s a cheap shot, and completely unfair. Let’s face it, a horror flick is not where you go for verisimilitude, and the least you should get for your time and high blood pressure is a hopeful ending. Redemption. Genre films should not be trying to buck convention, they’re all about convention. If I want bleakness and despair, I’ll watch an independent film.

That said, I’d accept the depressing nature of “The Mist”‘s conclusion if it seemed earned, but it’s all wrong for the characters as they’ve been portrayed throughout the film, the people we the audience have come to know and root for. They’d keep fighting!

Here it is: the conclusion of any piece of art is only believable, true, if it’s been earned. I tend to rush early drafts of my poems to the end, I’m good at endings. But then I have to go back and work to make those endings right and satisfying. Otherwise I’m left with some good lines, but a bad poem. The people behind “The Mist” worked to create a really compelling film, and ruined it with a “shocking” ending. This is one of those times I’d actually appreciate an alternate ending in the extras bit on DVD!

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.


On another topic entirely: Lance questions me every day whether I’ve posted the news yet here, and when I intend to, so I guess I’ll go ahead, seeing as he’s told everyone and their grandmothers since we found out:

Yes, I’m pregnant, due on Christmas day (poor baby), which makes me 7 weeks along. I will make every attempt to not regale you with pregnancy tales. Unless you ask. I will only say now that, as with Vincent, so far everything’s great, no morning sickness, just fatigue and ravenous, I-could-eat-my-desk, hunger. After our initial surprise, we’re very happy — I’m one of 6, and always wanted Vincent to have a sibling closer in age (his half-brothers are 20+ yrs older).  We weren’t exactly planning for one soon, but we’re excited nonetheless. Vincent is always sweet with babies, so hopefully he’ll be happy too when the new baby comes home, and not rage against being knocked from his only-child-prince’s perch. Good times.

Birthing a poem, take 2, his perspective.

Whether I’m actually better is hard to say, as I have narcotics to mask my symptoms, but let’s be happy while we can. Which could be a while, I have a high pain threshold, so I’m carefully doling these little pills out–I want the suckers to last! Plus, my doc looked rather doleful when she prescribed them, so I don’t want to end up addicted and on her conscience.

Speaking of pain, my friend fast approaches labor, so I thought a second poem, from the father’s perspective, might be instructive. It’s not as graphic or violent as the other, but it wouldn’t be, would it? This is by Greg Pape, from his collection, Sunflower Facing the Sun.

In the Birthing Room

You can say anything, but there are things
that can’t be told. They’ve worked out a method
of breathing to help you through, to ease the pain,
but the pain is deeper than breath goes.
I’ll never know. Here, for me, things
are as simplified as a traffic light,
the quickly passing yellow of choice
between two commands. Here’s my hand.
Nothing can drive me away.
I am like a stud in the wall
that makes this room possible.
You are like a sunflower facing the sun.
For better or worse, here for the duration.
Let the knees buckle, the hernia bulge,
the sweat swim along the lines of the skin.
Let the discs of the spine fuse
with cold fire, let the feet flatten,
and the small vessels in the eyes burst
and redden. Listen to the voice of the will,
egged on by the heart, setting out
on this journey through the mountains,
deserts, and swamps of the body.
I’ll hold your hand, and fan and fan
for as many hours as it takes.
This is December tenth and January twenty-eighth.
This is the day within the days
we’ve been moving toward.
Nurse says don’t push, resist the urge
to push. Doctor says push.
I say breathe, breathe.
You open your mouth, release another mottled
sparrow of pain. You can say anything.

I have mixed feelings about this poem, because even though I like the images, it’s a little too “I’m here for you even if you turn into Sasquatch.” It begins nicely: “I’ll never know.” But then, it happens: “for me.” And: “I am like the stud in the wall/that makes this room possible.” Huh? While we can all agree that yes, there would be no baby without the man, the scene is the labor room, so couldn’t the mother have center stage for a little while? And don’t think titling the book after the mother/sunflower simile makes it okay.

So yes, I’m ambivalent. But the last two lines are why I decided to type it up anyway. The tone has shifted–that second “You can say anything” is so tender. I love these lines. They redeem the poem, for me.

Birthing a poem.

A friend of mine is close to term with her first child, and, right on schedule, that means she’s beginning to worry about the birth. To stoke the fires, here’s a poem from Julianna Baggott’s newest collection of poems, Compulsions of Silkworms & Bees. If you haven’t read her before, get this book, it’s fantastic.

Eve Recalls Birthing and Her Discovery of Metaphor

My baby’s purple head newly wrung of blood
reddened. Adam rubbed his body dry, no longer fish-like,

while I fisted my own stomach, to push out
the shining clots as dark red as bruised, ground-rotting apples,

my stomach, too, like the softened fruit, the way only the skin holds shape
when the inside has turned to meal. My belly dull-colored,

almost gray and empty, I was the first to see how one thing
stands sadly for another, emotion mingling sweetly,

cruelly with the world. I knew what it was to be
not free, but freed from, to be the garden left behind,

not just the willow, but all the sagged limbs weeping.