Jun. 20, 2001

From Blossoms

by Li-Young Lee

Wednesday, 20 June 2001
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Poem: "From Blossoms," Li-Young Lee.

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

It's the birthday of biographer Claire Tomalin, born in London in 1933. She was the biographer of Mary Wollstonecraft, Percy Shelley, and Katherine Mansfield. She was also the biographer of Charles Dickens' lover Nelly Ternan.

It's the birthday of the World War II hero Audie Murphy, born near Kingston, Texas, in 1924. He was the most decorated hero of World War II, and he wrote his autobiography, To Hell and Back (which came out in 1949), in longhand.

It's the birthday of the blues singer Chester Arthur Burnett, better known as Howlin' Wolf, born in West Point, Mississippi, in 1910. His first hit record was Moanin' at Midnight in 1951.

It's the birthday of the writer and poet Josephine Johnson, born in Kirkwood, Missouri, in 1910. She wrote a book of nature essays, The Inland Island, in 1969 in addition to novels and poems.

It's the birthday of playwright Lillian Hellman, born in New Orleans in 1905. Her first successful play was in 1934, The Children's Hour, about a girl who destroys the lives of two teachers by accusing them of having a lesbian affair. Her next successful play was in 1939, called The Little Foxes. Her memoirs are recorded in three books, An Unfinished Woman, Pentimento, and Maybe.

It's the birthday of the biochemist Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, born in East Sussex, England, in 1861. He received the 1929 Nobel Prize for medicine for the discovery of "essential nutrient factors," what we now call vitamins.

It's the birthday of the novelist Charles Chestnutt, born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1858, the son of free blacks who had left North Carolina before the Civil War. He was a light-skinned black man who moved to New York City to make a living as a stenographer. For the next 20 years, he published more than 50 short-stories and essays and three novels: The Conjure Woman, The House Behind the Cedars, and The Marrow of Tradition.

It's the birthday of the poet, editor, and essayist Anna Laetitia Barbauld, born in Leicestershire, England, in 1743. She wrote many poems, starting when she was about 30, and edited 50 volumes of The British Novelists, but after receiving a single unfavorable review of one of her poems by critic Charles Lamb, she became so distressed that she withdrew from literary society and published nothing else.

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