May 3, 2002
A Light Left On
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Poem: "A Light Left On," by May Sarton from May Sarton Collected Poems 1930-1993 (W.W. Norton).
A Light Left On
In the evening we came back
Into our yellow room,
For a moment taken aback
To find the light left on,
Falling on silent flowers,
Table, book, empty chair
While we had gone elsewhere,
Had been away for hours.
When we came home together
We found the inside weather.
All of our love unended
The quiet light demanded,
And we gave, in a look
At yellow walls and open book.
The deepest world we share
And do not talk about
But have to have, was there,
And by that light found out.
It's the birthday of Elizabeth
Cohen, born in the Bronx, New York (1919). She took the name Betty Comden,
and, along with her partner Adolph Green, wrote many, many Broadway hits. They
worked with Leonard Bernstein to create On the Town (1944) and Wonderful
Town (1953); with Jule Styne on Peter Pan (1954), Bells Are Ringing
(1956), Subways Are For Sleeping (1961); and they wrote the screenplay
for Singin' in the Rain (1952).
It's the birthday of folk singer Pete
Seeger, born in New York City (1919). He learned to play the banjo and
ukulele as a boy and dropped out of Harvard University to travel around the
country, hitchhiking and hopping freight trains, building his huge repertoire
of folk songs.
It's the birthday of playwright William
Inge, born in Independence, Kansas (1913). He was a drama critic for
the Star Times in St. Louis, but after seeing Tennessee Williams' play
The Glass Menagerie, he decided to become a playwright. His second play,
Come Back, Little Sheba, was a hit in 1950. He also wrote Picnic
(1953), Bus Stop (1955), and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957).
It's the birthday of poet and novelist May
Sarton, born in Wondelgem, Belgium (1912). She was very prolific, producing
nearly 50 volumes of fiction, poetry, and memoir. Her parents fled the German
invasion during World War I and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At 17,
she moved to New York City. At 19, she went over to Europe, and while there,
had an affair with the biologist Julian Huxley - and then had another affair
with Huxley's wife, Juliette. Sarton's novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids
Singing (1965) was referred to as her "coming-out novel," but
she disliked being pigeonholed as a lesbian writer. She thought of herself as
a poet, once saying, "When you're a poet, you're a poet first."
It's the birthday of journalist and reformer Jacob
Riis, born in Ribe, Denmark (1849). He came to America looking for work
as a carpenter, then started working as a reporter. Within a few years, he bought
the struggling South Brooklyn News and transformed it into a profitable
reform journal. At the New York Tribune, he exposed the terrible conditions
of the slums. He was one of the first photojournalists, taking pictures of slum
life, which he published in How the Other Half Lives (1890).
It's the birthday of Nicolo
Machiavelli, born in Florence, Italy (1469). After the Medicis came
to power, he was exiled from the city. He lived on a small farm and wrote
The Prince (1513), in which he advocated the concentration of power in one
ruler, and the use of it in any way possible, no matter how treacherous, to
establish and strengthen the state.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®