May 27, 2001
I Knew a Woman
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Poem: "I Knew A Woman," by Theodore Roethke, from The Collected Poems (Anchor).
I Knew A Woman
I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one;
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).
How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;
I nibbled meekly, from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing we did make).
Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, those circles moved).
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
It's the birthday of biographer Edmund Morris, born in Nairobi, Kenya (1940), the son of an airline pilot. His biography of Teddy Roosevelt, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1979. His biography of Ronald Reagan came out two years ago: Dutch was a controversial book because of its odd, shifting points of view.
It's the birthday of poet Linda Pastan, born in New York City (1932). Her first collection was A Perfect Circle of Sun (1971).
It's the birthday of postmodern novelist John Barth, born in Cambridge, Maryland (1930). He's the author of The Floating Opera (1956), The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), Giles Goat-Boy, or The Revised Syllabus (1966), and other books.
It's the birthday of crime writer Tony Hillerman, born in Sacred Heart, Oklahoma (1925). He's the author of many books, including mysteries featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, a Navajo tribal policeman.
It's the birthday of novelist Herman Wouk, born in New York City (1915), author of The Caine Mutiny (1951), and Marjorie Morningstar (1955).
It's the birthday of writer John Cheever, born in Quincy, Massachusetts (1912). He's famous for his short stories portraying the lives, manners and morals of suburban, middle-class America. One of his best known stories is "The Swimmer," in which a middle-aged Connecticut man makes his way home one afternoon by swimming from pool to pool, in the back yards of his neighbors. He also wrote 4 novels, including The Wapshot Chronicle (1957) and Falconer (1977). He died in 1982.
It's the birthday of marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, born in Springdale, Pennsylvania (1907). Her book Silent Spring (1962), an indictment of the wanton use of pesticides, introduced the concept of ecology to the general population.
It's the birthday of novelist Dashiell Hammett, born in St. Mary's County, Maryland (1894). He's the author of many famous hard-boiled detective novels, including Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), The Maltese Falcon (1930), and The Thin Man (1934).
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