Dec. 9, 2000

I Ride Greyhound

by Ellie Shoenfeld

Broadcast date: SATURDAY, 9 December 2000

Poem: “I Ride Greyhound,” by Ellie Shoenfeld, from Screaming Red Gladiolus (Poetry Harbor).

I Ride Greyhound
because it's like being
in a John Steinbeck novel.
Next best thing is the laundromat.
That's where all people
who would be on the bus if they had the money
hang out. This is my crowd.
Tonight there are cleaning people appalled
at the stupidity of anyone
who would put powder detergent
into the clearly marked LIQUID ONLY slot.
The couple by the vending machine
are fondling each other.
You'd think the orange walls
and fluorescent lights
would dampen that energy
but it doesn't seem to.
It's a singles scene here on Saturday nights.
I confide to the fellow next to me
that I suspect I am being taken
in by the triple loader,
maybe it doesn't hold any more
than the regular machines
but I'm paying an extra fifty cents.
I tell him this meaningfully
holding handfuls of underwear.
He claims the triple loader
gives a better wash.
I don't ask why,
just cruise over to the pop machine,
aware that my selection
may provide a subtle clue.
I choose Wild Berry,
head back to my clothes.

It's the birthday of poet John Milton, born on Bread Street in Cheapside, London (1608). After earning B.A. and M.A. degrees at Cambridge, he lived outside London with his parents for 6 years, writing verse and "turning over the Latin and Greek authors." He traveled to Italy and met Galileo, then returned to England as civil war loomed. There he wrote propaganda pamphlets favoring the execution of King Charles. Doctors warned that if he insisted on continuing to write, the effort would blind him—as it did, when he was 43. His masterpieces came only after physical blindness permitted spiritual visions. Seven years after going blind, he began dictating the 12 books of Paradise Lost (1667), which took 5 years to complete. Last came Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes (both 1674).

It's the birthday of children's writer Jean de Brunhoff, born in Paris (1899)—author and illustrator of the Babar the Elephant books, inspired by a story his wife told their children. Her version began, "A little elephant was happily playing in the jungle when a hunter shot his mother." He embellished and illustrated the story, and suggested that his wife be listed as co-author, but she refused. After The Story of Babar (1931), he did 6 sequels, one a year, then died of tuberculosis at 38. After World War Two his son Laurent continued the series.

It's the birthday of story writer Joel Chandler Harris, born near Eatonton, Georgia (1848)—author of the Uncle Remus tales about Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and other animals.

On this day in 1854, six weeks after the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimea, Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" was published in the London Examiner. It’s about the brigade of British cavalry that obeyed an order to charge a heavily defended position, even though the move was suicidal and tactically useless.

It's the birthday of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, born in Montrose, Colorado (1905). A member of the “Hollywood Ten,” he was blacklisted after refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. Trumbo wrote a number of screenplays, as well as the novel Johnny Got His Gun (1939—National Book Award).

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




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