Wednesday

Dec. 13, 2000

A Blessing

by James Wright

Broadcast date: WEDNESDAY, 13 December 2000

Poem: “A Blessing,” by James Wright, from Above the River: The Complete Poems of James Wright (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, and The University Press of New England).

A Blessing

Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Today is Santa Lucia Day, the patron saint of writers. In Sweden on this day, the oldest daughter puts on a white robe and a crown of evergreens and candles, and comes down the stairs early to serve saffron buns and coffee to her parents. It’s considered the start of the Christmas season.

It is the birthday of poet and translator James Wright, born in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio (1927). His father worked for 50 years at a glass factory, his mother left school at 14 to work in a laundry. Wright began to write poetry when he was 11, and won the Robert Frost Poetry Prize while attending Kenyon College. His collections include The Branch Will Not Break (1963), Shall We Gather By The River (1968), and I See the Wind (1974). His Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

It is the birthday of mystery writer Ross MacDonald, born Kenneth Millar in Los Gatos, California (1915). After serving in World War Two, he settled in Santa Barbara, where he spent the rest of his life. He started work on a story about a former cop turned private eye named Lou Archer. The book, Moving Target, was published in 1949, and was later turned into the film Harper (1966) starring Paul Neman. MacDonald published 18 more Lou Archer mysteries.

It's the birthday of Episcopal clergyman, Phillips Brooks, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1835). He produced ten volumes of sermons, but he is best remembered as the author of the Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, which he wrote in 1868 for the children in his Sunday school.

It is the birthday of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the 16th President of the United States, born in Lexington, Kentucky (1818). She excelled in school, appearing in school plays and speaking French fluently. She was ambitious, scholarly, and an excellent conversationalist. When she was 21 years old, she moved to Springfield, Illinois, to live with her older sister, and became quite popular Springfield's society, dating Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln won her heart, and the two were married in 1842.

It is the birthday of German poet Heinrich Heine, born in Düsseldorf, Prussia (1797), most famous for The Book of Songs (1827), a work that is frequently set to music.

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

 









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