Tuesday

Feb. 5, 2002

Frankenstein

by Edward Field

TUESDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2002
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Poem: "Frankenstein," by Edward Field from Counting Myself Luck (Black Sparrow Press).

Frankenstein

The monster has escaped from the dungeon
where he was kept by the Baron,
who made him with knobs sticking out from each side of his
neck
where the head was attached to the body
and stitching all over
where parts of cadavers were sewed together.

He is pursued by the ignorant villagers,
who think he is evil and dangerous because he is ugly
and makes ugly noises.
They wave firebrands at him and cudgels and rakes,
but he escapes and comes to the thatched cottage
of an old blind man playing on the violin Mendelssohn's "Spring
Song."

Hearing him approach, the blind man welcomes him:
"Come in, my friend," and takes him by the arm.
"You must be weary," and sits him down inside the house.
For the blind man has long dreamed of having a friend
to share his lonely life.

The monster has never known kindness-the Baron was cruel-
but somehow he is able to accept it now,
and he really has no instincts to harm the old man,
for in spite of his awful looks he has a tender heart:
Who knows what cadaver that part of him came from?

The old man seats him at table, offers him bread,
and says, "Eat, my friend." The monster
rears back roaring in terror.
"No, my friend, it is good. Eat-gooood"
and the old man shows him how to eat,
and reassured, the monster eats
and says, "Eat-gooood,"
trying out the words and finding them good too.

The old man offers him a glass of wine,
"Drink, my friend. Drink-goood."
The monster drinks, slurping horribly, and says,
"Drink-goood," in his deep nutty voice
and smiles maybe for the first time in his life.

Then the blind man puts a cigar in the monster's mouth
and lights a large wooden match that flares up in his face.
The monster, remembering the torches of the villagers,
recoils, grunting in terror.
"No, my friend, smoke-goood,"
and the old man demonstrates with his own cigar.
The monster takes a tentative puff
and smiles hugely, saying, "Smoke-goood,"
and sits back like a banker, grunting and puffing.

Now the old man plays Mendelssohn's "Spring Song" on the
violin
while tears come into our dear monster's eyes
as he thinks of the stones of the mob, the pleasures of mealtime,
the magic new words he has learned
and above all of the friend he has found.

It is just as well that he is unaware-
being simple enough to believe only in the present-
that the mob will find him and pursue him
for the rest of his short unnatural life,
until trapped at the whirlpool's edge
he plunges to his death.

It's the birthday of playwright John Guare, born in New York City (1938). The only child of Irish Catholic parents, he grew up reading, attending the theater, and writing his own plays. His first play, called Universe, was performed in his neighbor's garage when he was eleven. His play, The House of Blue Leaves, was very successful, and he followed it up in the 1970s with several more plays, including a popular rock opera version of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971). He also wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for Louis Malle's film Atlantic City (1980). His work in the 1990's included the plays Six Degrees of Separation (1990) and Lake Hollywood (1999).

It's the birthday of Lutheran theologian and historian Martin (Emil) Marty, born in West Point, Nebraska (1928). He became a regular contributor to the liberal Protestant weekly The Christian Century, and a prolific author of books on theology and modern Christianity. His books include A Short History of Christianity (1959), Varieties of Unbelief (1964), and the three-volume Modern American Religion (1986, 1990, 1996).

It's the birthday of sociologist and best-selling novelist Father Andrew (Moran) Greeley, born in Oak Park, Illinois (1928). He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1954, and for many years has divided his time between faculty positions at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona. As a scholar, he has written extensively on religion and sociological topics. But he's best known for his popular novels, full of steamy sex and corrupt churchmen, which have often drawn harsh criticism from the Catholic Church. He first hit the bestseller lists in 1981 with The Cardinal Sins, and has followed that up with over three dozen other novels, including The Brother's Wife (1982), Fall from Grace (1993), and a series of mystery novels featuring Father "Blackie" Ryan.

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