Nov. 30, 2001

Worked Late on a Tuesday Night

by Deborah Garrison

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Poem: "Worked Late on a Tuesday Night," by Deborah Garrison from A Working Girl Can't Win (Random House).

Worked Late on a Tuesday Night

Midtown is blasted out and silent,
drained of the crowd and its doggy day.
I trample the scraps of deli lunches
some ate outdoors as they stared dumbly
or hooted at us career girls—the haggard
beauties, the vivid can-dos, open raincoats aflap
in the March wind as we crossed to and fro
in front of the Public Library.

Never thought you'd be one of them,
did you, little Lady?
Little Miss Phi Beta Kappa,
with your closetful of pleated
skirts, twenty-nine till death do us
part! Don't you see?
The good schoolgirl turns thirty,
forty, singing the song of time management
all day long, lugging the briefcase

home. So at 10:00 PM
you're standing here
with your hand in the air,
cold but too stubborn to reach
into your pocket for a glove, cursing
the freezing rain as though it were
your difficulty. It's pathetic,
and nobody's fault but
your own. Now

the tears,
down into the collar.
Cabs, cabs, but none for hire.
I haven't had dinner; I'm not half
of what I meant to be.
Among other things, the mother
of three. Too tired, tonight,
to seduce the father.

Today is the Feast of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, and the older brother of Saint Peter.

It's the birthday of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, born in Florida, Missouri, in 1835. He wrote of the place in his autobiography, published in 1924: "The village contained a hundred people and I increased the population by one percent. It is more than many of the best men in history could have done for a town." Twain's most enduring fictions were autobiographical, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He wrote in his autobiography: "Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man—the biography of the man himself cannot be written."

It's the birthday of Sir Winston Churchill, born in Oxfordshire in 1874. When Churchill was a young man, he was in Africa working as a reporter when he was captured. He wrote a book about his adventures called From London to Ladysmith via Pretoria. He was scheduled to speak at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, an event which brought the 65-year-old Mark Twain and Churchill face to face. Though the two had some arguments, Churchill was pleased to meet Twain and asked him to sign a set of his works. Twain obliged, writing inside the cover a message to Churchill which said: "To do good is noble; to teach others to do good is nobler, and no trouble."

It's the birthday of Jonathan Swift, born in Dublin in 1667. He is best known for Gulliver's Travels, a project that took him four years to write.

It's the birthday of the playwright David Mamet, born in Chicago in 1947 and the author of works such as Oleanna and Glengarry Glen Ross. He has also written many screenplays.

It's the birthday of Lucy Maud Montgomery, born in 1874 in Canada in Clifton on Prince Edward Island. She wrote many children's novels, but her greatest success was her first among them, Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908.

It's the birthday of the American poet Robert Lax, born in Olean, New York, in 1915. He went to Columbia University where he became good friends with Thomas Merton, the religious philosopher. The two remained close friends, mostly through letters—Lax was something of a nomad in his adult life, moving back and forth from the United States and Europe. He was a screenwriter for a while, then a critic, and finally settled on the Greek island of Patmos in the 1970s where he wrote prolifically for 25 years.

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




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