Sep. 17, 2001

I Remember

by Stevie Smith

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Poem: "I Remember," by Stevie Smith from Collected Poems of Stevie Smith (New Directions).

I Remember

It was my bridal night I remember,
An old man of seventy-three
I lay with my young bride in my arms,
A girl with t.b.
It was wartime, and overhead
The Germans were making a particularly heavy raid on Hampstead.
What rendered the confusion worse, perversely
Our bombers had chosen that moment to set out for Germany.
Harry, do they ever collide?
I do not think it has ever happened,
Oh my bride, my bride.

Today is the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the day that is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. It marks the beginning of the period known as the High Holy Days, which is ushered in by the blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn. It is also customary for families to gather for a holiday meal that includes apples dipped in honey, symbolizing blessings, abundance, and hope for a sweet year ahead.

It's the birthday of novelist Ken Kesey, born in La Junta, Colorado (1935), who became an icon and a cultural hero of the 1960s with two highly successful novels, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. Ken Kesey, who said: "One of the dumbest things you were ever taught was to write what you know. Because what you know is usually dull. Remember when you first wanted to be a writer? Eight or 10 years old, reading about thin-lipped heroes flying over mysterious viny jungles toward untold wonders? That's what you wanted to write about, about what you didn't know."

It's the birthday of novelist Robert B(rown) Parker, born in Springfield, Massachusetts (1932). His first novel, which was sold for publication within three weeks, was called The Godwulf Manuscript (1974), and it introduced the character of a detective named Spenser, a Boston policeman turned private eye after being fired for insubordination.

It's the birthday of singer and songwriter Hiram King "Hank" Williams, born in Mount Olive, Alabama (1923). He was a musical child whose mother was an organist for the family's church. Williams debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in 1949, and was brought back for six encores of his hit song, "Lovesick Blues." Within a year, Williams became the most sought-after country star in the business. Though his recording career lasted only six years, Williams placed 32 singles in the top 10, eleven of which went to number one. In 1951 alone, he had seven top-ten hits, including "Baby, We're Really in Love," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'," and "Howlin' at the Moon."

It's the birthday of pediatrician and poet William Carlos Williams, born in Rutherford, New Jersey (1883). While still in high school, Williams made a decision to become both a doctor and a writer. He self-published his first book of poetry, Poems, in 1909. He was a prolific writer: He wrote more than 600 poems, four full-length plays, an opera libretto, 52 short stories, four novels, a book of essays, an autobiography, a biography of his mother, and a book on American history. He also delivered 2000 babies.

In 1862 on this day, the Battle of Antietam was fought in Maryland as the culmination of General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North. This was not only the first major engagement of the Civil War fought on northern soil, it was also the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. More than 25,000 soldiers were killed and wounded at the Battle of Antietam, more than the number of Americans killed in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War combined. A soldier from Pennsylvania wrote in his diary: "No tongue can tell, no mind conceive, no pen portray the horrible sights I witnessed this morning. God grant these things may soon end and peace be restored. Of this war I am heartily sick and tired."

In 1787 on this day, the Constitution of the United States was completed and signed by a majority of the delegates attending the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. After months of debate, 39 delegates, representing 12 of the thirteen states, signed the document that began, "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

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