Monday

Feb. 26, 2001

A Man in Maine

by Philip Booth

MONDAY, 26 February 2001
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Poem: "A Man in Maine," by Philip Booth, from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999 (Viking).

A Man In Maine

North. The bare time.
The same quick dark
from Rutland to Nome,

the utter chill.
Winter stars. After
work, splitting birch

by the light outside
his back door, a man
in Maine thinks what

his father told him,
splitting outside
this same back door:

every November, his
father said, he thought
when he split wood

of what his father
said the night he
right here died: just

after supper, his
father said, his father
came out back, looked

out at the sky
the way he had
for years, picked up

his ax, struck
the oak clean, and
was himself struck

down; before he
died he just had
this to say:

this time of
year the stars
come close some fierce.

It's Shrove Monday, the last Monday before the beginning of Lent. In Germany and Austria, today is Fasching, or the Feast of Fools, and is celebrated with processions of masked figures.

On this day in 1991, Tim Berners-Lee unveiled a prototype of the Web browser at the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, a tool for physicists around the world to share their research. The first commercially-available Web browser, Mosaic, was released in 1993.

It's the birthday of country western singer and songwriter Johnny Cash, born in Kingsland, Arkansas (1932). After getting out of the Air Force in 1954, he settled in Memphis and worked as an appliance salesman while fronting the band "Tennessee Two." He recorded his first singles for Sun Records in 1955: "Hey Porter," and "Cry, Cry, Cry," which was his first big hit.

It's the birthday of children's author and mystery novelist Mary Shura Craig, born in Pratt, Kansas (1923). She's the author of nearly seventy books, including the children's books Simple Spigott (1960), and The Nearsighted Knight (1964) and mystery novels such as The Third Blonde (1985) and Flash Point (1987).

On this day in 1919, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona was established by an act of Congress. When President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903, he called it "the one great sight which every American should see." In 1975, Congress nearly doubled the size of the park, which now covers 1,904 square miles.

On this day in 1848, the Communist Manifesto was published—in London, in German. It was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

It's the birthday of Levi Strauss, born in Bavaria, Germany (1829). He came to America when he was eighteen to work as a peddler, then made his way to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush of 1849. He started making clothing for the miners, including a pair of pants that came to be named for him—"Levis."

It's the birthday of Victor Hugo, born in Besançon, France (1802), best known for his novels The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862). He also wrote a number of successful plays, including Hernani (1830) and Le Roi s'amuse (1832), on which Verdi based his opera Rigoletto. He was active in French politics as a member of the Legislative Assembly, but was driven into exile when Napoleon the Third came to power. He returned to Paris nearly twenty years later, and was made a senator of the Third Republic when he was seventy-four years old. When he died in May 1885, he lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe, and a million Parisians were part of his funeral procession.

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