Apr. 18, 2001

Packing Mother's Things

by Carol Frost

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Poem: "Packing Mother's Things," by Carol Frost, from Day of the Body (Ion Books).

Packing Mother's Things

I put into a carton the unstrung doll
wrapped in a baby quilt
whose eyes open and shut with a thunk
as the lids strike the molded brow
with the resonance of a hammer inside a clock.
I also put in an old radio,
shaped like the grille of a late-model car
whose singers sang O Careless Love
and Lulu's Back in Town.
Then I put in the inedible cake
and the tiny wax couple all in black.
Then the cameo. In the cameo a woman is etched
in shell, four folds to her skirt,
and she is holding one fold as she steps
and waves goodbye. The sky is abalone.
The two faintly Chinese buildings have a window
for looking out and a door for welcome.
But the woman, white as a cemetery in snow,
inaudible as a saved letter in a secret compartment
of a desk, is bidding good-bye.
I call the Goodwill and say
that they can have everything else.
But they won't take the windows, the doors,
the bathroom and the lawn;
they slide the mattresses down the stairs.
They are incredulous that I would leave
her shag rug red as cabbage, an aviary,
a homemade bookcase.
One of them finds a piece of scrap paper
and says, This is someone's,
don't you want it, I think it's a poem.

It's the birthday of beat poet Bob Kaufman, born in New Orleans (1925). He left home at 13 to join the merchant marines, sailed around the globe nine times, and survived four shipwrecks. He settled in San Francisco when he was 32 and became involved with the beat poets there, co-founding the poetry magazine Beatitude. He was moved by the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and took a vow of silence. He remained silent, neither speaking nor writing, until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

It's the birthday of publisher and entrepreneur Clifton Keith Hillegass, born in Rising City, Nebraska (1918). He's the Cliff behind Cliff's Notes, the black-and-yellow striped study guides that you use to cram for exams if you haven't actually read the book itself. The best sellers are The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, Hamlet, and Macbeth.

It's the anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

It's the birthday of dynamic conductor Leopold Stokowski, born in London (1882). He was just an organist in London, but he moved to New York when he was 23, and though he had little conducting experience, he took over the Cincinnati Symphony when he was 27. His flamboyant presence on the stage helped to make his career. He spent nearly 30 years with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also conducted the orchestra in Walt Disney's Fantasia.

It is the birthday of dashing journalist and fiction writer Richard Harding Davis, born in Philadelphia (1864). He covered the Spanish-American War, the Russo-Japanese War, and the Mexican Revolution—all the while writing novels. He was impossibly handsome and athletic. On the battlefield, he carried his own bathtub and clean linen.

On this date, "On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five / Hardly a man is still alive," Paul Revere made his famous ride from Boston to Concord (1775), to alert the Minute Men that the British were coming. It was the beginning of the American Revolution.

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




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