Nov. 15, 2000


by Hayden Carruth

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 15 November 2000

Poem: “Pittsburgh,” by Hayden Carruth, from Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey (Copper Canyon Press).

And my beautiful daughter
had her liver cut open in Pittsburgh.
My god, my god! I rubbed
her back over the swollen and wounded
essentiality, I massaged
her legs, and we talked of death.
At the luckiest patients with liver cancer have
a 20% chance. We might have talked
of my death, not long to come. But no,
the falling into death of a beautiful
young woman is so much more important.
A wonderful hospital. If I must die
away from my cat Smudge and my Vermont Castings stove
let it be at Allegheny General.
I read to her, a novella by Allan Gurganus,
a Russian serious flimsiness by Voinovich,
and we talked. We laughed. We actually
laughed. I bought her a lipstick
which she wore though she disliked the color.
Helicopters took off and landed on the hospital pad,
bringing hearts and kidneys and maybe livers
from other places to be transplanted
into people in the shining household of technology
by shining technologists, wise and kindly.
The chances are so slight. Oh, my daughter,
my love for you has burgeoned —
an excess of singularity ever increasing —
you are my soul — for forty years. You
still beautiful and young. In my hotel
I could not sleep. In my woods, on my
little farm, in the blizzard on the mountain,
I could not sleep either, but scribbled
fast verses, very fast and
wet with my heartsblood and brainjuice
all my life, as now
in Pittsburgh. I don't know which of
us will live longer, it's all a flick
of the wrist of the god mankind invented
and then had to deinvent, such a failure, like all
our failures, and the worst and best
is sentimentality after all. Let us go out together.
Her in brutal Pittsburgh. Let us
be together in the same room,
the old poet and the young painter,
holding hands, a calm touch, a whisper,
as the thumping helicopters go out and come in,
we in crisis of forever inadequately medicated
pain, in the love of daughter and father.

It's the birthday of poet Marianne Moore, born in Kirkwood, Missouri 1887, at the home of her grandfather, a Presbyterian minister.  Her family moved to Pennsylvania, where her mother taught English at a private girls' school, and Marianne attended Bryn Mawr College.  After graduating, she supported herself as a librarian and editor, but was determined to write poetry. A few of her friends had to steal some of her poems in order to have her first volume published in 1921. In 1952, she won the Bollingen Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Award for her Collected Poems (1951).

"I can see no reason for calling my work poetry except that there is no other category in which to put it."

It's the birthday of painter Georgia O'Keeffe, born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (1887). Her mother came from a wealthy Eastern European family and wanted her children to have art lessons; by the age of ten, Georgia had decided she wanted to be an artist. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, but a bout of typhoid fever prevented her from returning for her second year. She moved to New York to take classes at the Art Students League, and later found work as a commercial artist in Chicago. She designed the "little Dutch girl" logo, still used on cans of Dutch Cleanser today. She was teaching in South Carolina when her friend Anita Pollitzer sent some drawings she had done to Alfred Stieglitz, who hung them in his next show. Georgia O’Keefe, at the age of 29, became an overnight celebrity.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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