Jan. 1, 2001


by Richard Foerster

Broadcast date: MONDAY, 1 January 2001

Poem: "Broth," by Richard Foerster, from Trillium (Boa Editions).


Some days we cannot help
but stand, chilled to the marrow,
and so let the water brim
with whatever bits we find at hand,
then ease into the kettle the wrecked keel
of a chicken—how like an alchemist
anyone intent on making soup.

The onion, halved then quartered,
separates into a lifetime
of crescent moons, and the carrot's
bright disks float like so many risings
gathered into a single day. Precise,
but not precise. It's not so much practice
as instinct to know that six

peppercorns are enough to pique
the senses, or that a trickle
of salt, rolled from the palm, honors
the one that bore us and will swallow
us again. Somehow we learn
that the parsley must be bitter
as the earth after Eden and one smatter

of thyme is enough to soothe the soul.
We do not think twice about adding
the bay leaf with its tincture of poison.
When we ache, we'll gladly shiver
to stir the broth, then sip, trusting
in the delicate balance of the common-
place to exact the cure.

It's the anniversary of one of the great rejections of history: in London on this day, in 1962, Decca records turned down the Beatles—they thought that guitar bands were on the way out. Instead, they signed up a group called Brian Poole and the Tremolos.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer J(erome) D(avid) Salinger, born in New York City (1919). His book Catcher in the Rye, about the young rebel Holden Caulfield, was an immediate success when it came out in 1951. It still sells about a quarter of a million copies a year.

It's the birthday of E(dward) M(organ) Forster, born in London (1870). He was grew up on a country estate called Rooksnest—a place that would later provide the inspiration for his novel Howard's End (1910). He took long vacations in Italy with his mother which inspired A Room With A View (1908). He spent a great deal of time in India, where he served as a private secretary to a Maharajah, and wrote A Passage to India (1924). It was Forster's last novel; he spent a productive 46 years afterward writing journalism, and taking an active part in starting the literary society PEN.

It's the birthday of anthropologist and historian, Sir James (George) Frazer, born in Glasgow, Scotland (1854). He's best known for his study of ancient cults, myths, and religions: The Golden Bough—in which he argued that belief in magic preceded belief in religion.

It was on this day in 1660, that the 27-year old English writer Samuel Pepys began his famous diary, a book he'd keep up for nine years, recording both the grand events and minutiae of Restoration-era London. His first entry:

"At the beginning of this year, I live in one of the houses belonging to the Navy Office, and have now for about half-a-year with my wife, Jane, my servant Will; and Myself in constant good health and in a most handsome and thriving condition, Blessed be Almighty God for it."

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




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