Dec. 1, 2000

Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter 1993

by Jane Kenyon

Broadcast date: FRIDAY, 1 December 2000

Poem: “Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter 1993,” by Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise (Graywolf Press).

On the domed ceiling God
is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts
and arguments:

“We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash alike must
come for water?”

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. She was an assistant tailor at a Montgomery, Alabama department store, and a longtime civil rights activist. She often walked home from work in order to avoid the segregated buses, but on this day she was too tired. A boycott ensued that went on for 381 days: it ended segregation on Montgomery’s buses, and heralded the start of the modern civil rights movement.

It’s the birthday of actor and comedian Richard Pryor, born in Peoria, Illinois (1940). He was raised mostly by his grandmother, who was the madam of a brothel, one of three on the block. He dropped out of school at fourteen, appeared in amateur shows while he was in the Army, and after his discharge starting working in professionally in clubs in New York, then on television shows like the Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show, then in Las Vegas.

It’s the birthday of writer, actor and filmmaker Woody Allen, born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York (1935). He grew up loving movies, sports and magic tricks, which he practiced for hours. At fifteen he started submitting jokes under the name of Woody Allen to newspaper columnists. When he graduated from high school, he was hired to write for Sid Caesar’s television show. In his mid-twenties, he began doing stand-up comedy, and three years later he wrote his first movie, What’s New, Pussycat? He’s gone on to make many movies as a director, beginning with Take the Money and Run.

"Eighty percent of success is showing up."

It’s the birthday of mystery writer Rex Stout, born in Noblesville, Indiana (1886). In 1933, he created the unusual detective Nero Wolfe. In his fifties, weighing nearly three hundred pounds, Wolfe is a witty, literate and liberal-minded gourmet who loves orchids and beer. He is also chronically lazy and averse to leaving his Manhattan brownstone. Stout wrote thirty-three novels and forty-one novellas featuring Nero Wolfe.

It’s the birthday of poet Julia A. Moore, born in Plainfield, Michigan (1847), a farmer’s daughter who published terrible poetry in a volume called The Sentimental Songbook (1876). She was parodied in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as the character Emmeline Grangerford. Audiences used to come to laugh at her. It took her a while to realize she was being ridiculed, and, in what would be her final public reading, she told the audience, “You people paid 50 cents to see a fool, but I got $50 to look at a house full of fools.”

It’s the birthday of museum owner Marie Tussaud, better known as Madame Tussaud, born in Strasbourg, France (1760). At age six she was adopted by her uncle, who took her to Paris and taught her the craft of wax modeling. He opened a wax museum in 1780, and its popularity allowed Marie to meet Rousseau, Diderot and Benjamin Franklin, among others. When he died, he left the museum to Marie, who eventually settled it in Baker Street in London.

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




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