Mar. 11, 2001

Pot Roast

by Mark Strand

SUNDAY, 11 March 2001
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Poem: "Pot Roast," by Mark Strand, from Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf).

Pot Roast

I gaze upon the roast,
that is sliced and laid out
on my plate
and over it
I spoon the juices
of carrot and onion.
And for once I do not regret
The passage of time.

I sit by a window
that looks
on the soot-stained brick of buildings
and do not care that I see
no living thing—not a bird,
not a branch in bloom,
not a soul moving
in the rooms
behind the dark panes.
These days when there is little
to love or to praise
one could do worse
than yield
to the power of food.
So I bend

to inhale
the steam that rises
from my plate, and I think
of the first time
I tasted a roast
like this.
It was years ago
in Seabright,
Nova Scotia;
my mother leaned
over my dish and filled it
and when I finished
filled it again.
I remember the gravy,
its odor of garlic and celery,
and sopping it up
with pieces of bread.

And now
I taste it again.
The meat of memory.
The meat of no change.
I raise my fork in praise,
and I eat.

On this day in 1959, the play A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City — the first play by a black woman to reach Broadway.  It starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Claudia McNeil.

It's the birthday of Douglas Adams, born in Cambridge, England (1952) — author of the humorous mock-science-fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It's the birthday of press king Rupert Murdoch, born in Melbourne, Australia (1931). He inherited a small newspaper in Adelaide, Australia, when he was 21. Using lurid headlines and sensational stories, he boosted circulation fast. He bought more papers,  then magazines, television stations, and, by the mid-1980s, the 20th Century-Fox film studios.

It's the birthday of  bandleader Lawrence Welk, born in Strasburg, North Dakota (1903).  In 1955, at the age of 52, he became a television star on the ABC television network; his show ran until 1982.  He rejected cigarette and beer commercials, hired no comedians for fear of off-color jokes, and over the years became, after Bob Hope, the second-wealthiest performer in show business.

It's the birthday of electrical engineer Vannevar Bush, born in Everett, Massachusetts (1890).  While teaching at M.I.T., he devised the first computer.  He called it a "network analyzer," but it was really an early form of analog computer.

It's the anniversary of the great Blizzard of 1888, which hit the northeastern states and didn't let for about a day and a half.  In New York City, the Stock Exchange closed, and people lost all sense of direction in the driving, swirling snow.  The high winds, low temperatures, and heavy snowfall led to 400 deaths.

On this day in 1818, the gothic terror tale Frankenstein (in full, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, was published.

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