Nov. 4, 2001

The Red Camellia

by J. P. White

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Poem: "The Red Camellia," by J.P. White from The Salt Hour (University of Illinois Press).

The Red Camellia

In one of those sidewalk spiritual pamphlets picked up
for a quarter, I hear news of a bridge built

with forgiveness between two brothers estranged
for fifty years, a turning toward the other across

great policed distances, their invisible thoughts sending
one moment of release, dissolving the oldest crimes

swirling in a family's weather. "Miracles are thoughts,"
the page said, in lowercase letters, and it's when

I read on about a rare uncatalogued camellia
found blooming in a stained-glass cathedral window

made from broken liquor bottles that I remembered
how abandoned we feel in the sagging middle of a fight,

neither side willing to overcome the ten thousand
obstacles strewn between blunt oration, familiar barricades,

our words impossible to track through scorn and sarcasm,
back to the triggering event, the arguments unchanged,

and then, one of us must pause long enough to see it
or the possibility of it unfolding in that desert –

the showy red petals brighter than a lion's walk,
a loveliness freed of old alliances and judgments,

a bit of glass found and snugly beveled into place,
a thought sent out from a faraway country, undefended.

It's the birthday of the poet C.K. Williams, Charles Kenneth Williams, born in Newark, New Jersey (1936). Williams, the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974, as well as a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship in 1985 and 1993, decided he wanted to be a poet after he once wrote a poem to his girlfriend. His poetry has shown a decided progression from political and social protest to bleak descriptions that often invoke images of alienation, anger, and deception. Some of his works include A Day for Anne Frank, Lies, and The Vigil. He has also translated many works including Bacchae by Euripides, Women of Trachis by Sophocles, and others.

On this day in 1918, the English poet Wilfred Owen was killed at the age of 25 in WWI, trying to get his men across a canal against enemy fire. The war ended one week after that. His book Poems was published two years after his death.

It's the birthday of the humorist, lecturer, and writer Will Rogers, born in Oklahoma (1879). Rogers, one of the giants of vaudeville, was often referred to as an American folk hero, even during his lifetime, and earned the nickname of the "cowboy philosopher."  The reason Rogers was so very popular was because he used things he had learned as a child on a farm in his acts. For example, he twirled a lasso using skills he had learned while roping steer.  He also starred in many films including Happy Days, and State Fair. In 1926, Rogers decided to expand his career and started writing syndicated articles for The New York Times. He commented on daily news bits and philosophy, but focused mainly on a humorous political commentary, which he had introduced in his show. He was also an author of several works including The Cowboy Philosopher on Prohibition (1919), and Will Rogers's Political Follies (1929). Will Rogers, who said, "Everybody is ignorant. Only on different subjects," and "Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead."

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




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