Nov. 2, 2001

Three Questions

by Ralph Black

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Poem: "Three Questions," by Ralph Black from Turning Over The Earth (Milkweed Editions).

Three Questions

How can it be
that the one sure thing
worth repeating
from a year that slips
between the hands
like kite string,
and is hauled into
the next like a
favorite kite,
is what I think is
a Japanese maple
from the far end
of November,
firing through half
a suburban block
with its not yet burnt-
through extravagance
of orange? Or that
that one tree on
that one block
seen on that one day
in the course of
this one short life
is enough, though clearly,
despite the lies
its leaves are, or
my need to trust
the impossible stories
hanging from its limbs,
it is enough? Or even
that the world, even
this one, can offer so little and
so much at once
and mean them both?

On this day in 1960, a British jury decided that D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was not obscene, nor was it likely to deprave or corrupt those who read it. Penguin Books, the publisher of the work, was acquitted of all the obscenity charges.

On this day on Los Angeles in 1947, the Hughes wooden airplane, the world's largest aircraft, called the Spruce Goose, made its first and only flight. It could seat 700 passengers.

It's the birthday of Shere Hite, born in St. Joseph, Missouri (1942). Hite, a fashion model, became involved in the women's movement in the '70s. She published the Hite Report, a nationwide study of women's sexuality.

It's the birthday of physicist Richard Taylor, born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada in 1929. Taylor, along with others, discovered the existence of the quark. They won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1990.

On this day in 1920, KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first radio station to have a regularly scheduled broadcast.

It's the birthday of the novelist Helga Swartz, who wrote under the name of Moa Martinson, born in Vårdnäs, Sweden (1890). She was the daughter of an unmarried factory girl, and was a largely self-taught novelist and journalist who spent the first part of her life in poverty and misery. Despite this, her memoirs are filled with laughter and warmth. She is perhaps most remembered because she was the first woman writer among the worker-novelists who "rose from the miserable existence of day-laborers at the great central Swedish estates." Some of her works include Mother Gets Married, Church Wedding, and The King's Roses.

It's the birthday of the mathematician George Boole, born in England (1815). Boole wrote Mathematical Analysis of Logic in 1847, and Boolean Algebra was named for him.

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