Saturday

May 4, 2002

Irony

by Thomas Lux

SATURDAY, 4 MAY 2002
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Poem:
"Irony," by Thomas Lux from Split Horizon (Houghton Mifflin Company).

Irony

A handgrenade - thunk - lands in a bunker.
Two brave men dive
to smother it with their helmets and bellies,
their heads collide,
both are knocked out
and seconds later die

in the unmuffled blast: hard irony, a device
we turn to
when each door, hatch, gate, path
we turn to
opens to
the blank. And it can make us laugh,

which is good,
human. And it says one thing
when it means another,
which we love: it's safe there, one foot
on each side
of a crevasse, one can be both numb

and acute, brave
and fearful, at ease
in a mink-lined noose: we love
this tool
and the comfort, the justice, it provides,
it provides.


It's the birthday of novelist David Guterson, born in Seattle (1956). He's the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, a best seller in 1995. His most recent novel is East of the Mountains (1999).

It's the birthday of novelist Graham Swift, born in London (1949). He's best known for his novel Waterland, which won the Booker Prize in 1984. Graham Swift, who said: "I have enormous faith in the imagination. If your imagination cannot transport you mentally from where you are to somewhere quite different, then don't be a novelist. Be something else."

It's the birthday of novelist and surgeon Robin Cook, born in New York City (1940). He's the author of many medical thrillers and best sellers, starting with Coma in 1977.

It's the birthday of writer Amos Oz, born Amos Klausner, in Jerusalem (1939). He's best known for his novel My Michael (1968).

It's the birthday of poet Thomas Kinsella, born in Dublin (1928). His father, whom he called "a man of high and punishing ideals," worked in the Guinness brewery in Dublin. Thomas went to a parochial school and said, "To my schooling with the Christian brothers I owe my early preparation for the squalid brutalities of the world." He lives part of the time in Ireland, part of the time in the United States.

It's the birthday of ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein, born in Rochester, New York (1907). He was the man who, in 1933, brought the choreographer George Balanchine to America, and together they founded the American Ballet company and later the New York City Ballet. Kirstein was the general director of the New York City Ballet for more than 40 years and wrote a memoir about it.

On this day in 1886, a bomb exploded at a labor rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square, killing eight policemen. There had been strikes in Chicago - one on May Day - calling for an eight-hour work day. On May 3 there was another one, and police fired into the crowds, killing two demonstrators. The rally in Haymarket the next day was peaceful and sparsely attended in a heavy rain, but police rushed the demonstrators, and the bomb went off. Eight radicals were arrested by the police and convicted, not for the bombing, but for their radical ideas. Four were executed, one died in prison, and the other three were pardoned 16 years later by the Governor of Illinois. The actual bomber was never found.



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