Mar. 25, 2001

No Tool or Rope or Pail

by Bob Arnold

SUNDAY, 25 March 2001
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Poem: "No Tool or Rope or Pail," by Bob Arnold, from Where Rivers Meet (Mad River Press).

It hardly mattered what time of year
We passed their farmhouse,
They never waved,
This old farm couple
Usually bent over in the vegetable garden
Or walking by the muddy dooryard
Between house and red-weathered barn.
They would look up, see who was passing,
Then look back down, ignorant to the event.
We would always wave nonetheless,
Before you dropped me off at work
Further up on the hill,
Toolbox rattling in the backseat,
And then again on the way home
Later in the day, the pale sunlight
High up in their pasture,
Our arms out the window,
Cooling ourselves.
And it was that one midsummer evening
We drove past and caught them sitting
together on the front porch
At ease, chores done,
The tangle of cats and kittens
Cleaning themselves of fresh spilled milk
On the barn door ramp;
We drove by and they looked up—
The first time I've ever seen their
Hands free of any work,
No too or rope or pail—
And they waved.

On this day in 1960, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the unabridged version of Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence, was not obscene, and could be sent through the U.S. mail. The ruling was unanimous. One judge asked, "Should a mature and sophisticated reading public be kept in blinders because a government official thinks reading certain works of power and literary value are not good for him?" A British court issued a similar verdict shortly afterwards. During the wave of publicity that accompanied the litigation in 1959-1960, over 6 million copies of the book were sold. Unfortunately, D.H. Lawrence did not benefit from it: he'd been dead 30 years.

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, born in Brooklyn (1941), author of Buffalo Afternoon (1988), The Golden Rope (1996), and The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat (1997) and other books.

It's the birthday of Gloria Steinem, born in Toledo, Ohio (1934). Her childhood was spent traveling with her parents in trailers—she didn't attend school regularly until she was 12. In 1971 she helped found the National Women's Political Caucus, and edited the first issue of Ms. magazine.

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Flannery O'Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia (1925). She once said that the climax of her life occurred when she was six: newsreel cameramen came to her farm and shot footage of her with a chicken that walked backwards. Her first novel, Wise Blood was published in 1952. Shortly afterward, she was stricken with lupus, the disease that had killed her father when she was 12. She moved back to live with her mother on a farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. There she wrote A Good Man Is Hard to Find, and Other Stories (1955), The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965).

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