Jul. 5, 2001

The One Day

by Donald Hall

Thursday, 5 July 2001
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Poem: lines from "The One Day," by Donald Hall from The One Day (Houghton Mifflin).

The One Day

There are ways to get rich: Find an old corporation,
self-insured, with capital reserves. Borrow
to buy: Then dehire managers; yellow-slip maintenance;
pay public relations to explain how winter is summer;
liquidate reserves and distribute cash in dividends:
Get out, sell stock for capital gains, reward the usurer,
and look for new plunder—leaving a milltown devastated,
workers idle on streetcorners, broken equipment, no cash
for repair or replacement, no inventory or credit.
Then vote for the candidate who abolishes foodstamps.

Or: Buy fifty acres of pasture from the widower:
Survey, cut a road, subdivide; bulldoze the unpainted
barn, selling eighteenth-century beams with bark
still on them; bulldoze foundation granite that oxen sledded;
bulldoze stone walls set with lost skill; bulldoze the Cape
the widower lived in; bulldoze his father's seven-apple tree.
Drag the trailer from the scraggly orchard to the dump:
Let the poor move into the spareroom of their town
cousins; pave garden and cornfield; build weekend houses
for skiers and swimmers; build Slope 'n' Shore; name the new

road Blueberry Muffin Lane; build Hideaway Homes
for executives retired from pricefixing for General Electric
and migrated north out of Greenwich to play bridge
with neighbors migrated north out of Darien. Build huge
centrally heated Colonial ranches—brick, stone, and wood
confounded together—on pasture slopes that were white
with clover, to block public view of Blue Mountain.
Invest in the firm foreclosing Kansas that exchanges
topsoil for soybeans. Vote for a developer as United States
senator. Vote for statutes that outlaw visible poverty.

It's the birthday of the French poet and film director Jean Cocteau, born in Maisons-Lafitte near Paris in 1891. He published his first book of poems, Aladdin's Lamp, when he was just 19. He became a friend to Picasso, and the poet Apollinaire, and the composer Satie. He created ballets with the Ballets Russes, wrote the libretto for Stravinsky's opera-oratorio Oedipus the King, wrote several plays, and wrote and directed films, including The Blood of a Poet, Beauty and the Beast, and Orpheus. His films are filled with startling images. He said, "The job of the poet (a job which can't be learned) consists of placing those objects of the visible world which have become invisible due to the glue of habit, in an unusual position which strikes the soul and gives them a tragic force."

It's the birthday of the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, born in Warsaw, Poland in 1879. She learned to play the piano when she was four, but single-handedly developed the techniques of modern harpsichord playing. She reintroduced the instrument to 20th-century audiences.

It's the birthday of the great showman P. T. (Phineus Taylor) Barnum, born in Bethel, Connecticut, in 1810. He was a newspaper publisher before he came to New York City and became a showman. He established a sort of "freak show" where he displayed the Siamese twins Chang and Eng, and General Tom Thumb, the 25-inch tall man. In 1850, he turned opera impresario and brought Swedish soprano Jenny Lind to the United States for a hugely successful tour. In 1871, he founded what he called The Greatest Show on Earth with James Bailey to create the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

It's the birthday of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of the graham cracker, born in West Suffield, Connecticut, in 1794. He invented the graham cracker in 1829, intending it as a health food.

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




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