Sunday

May 19, 2002

June 1

by David Lehman

SUNDAY, 19 MAY 2002
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "June 1," by David Lehman from The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner).

June 1

The new day (a gray streak
of light) begins with
the bubbles still in
last night's soda water
in my glass by the bed
I've got to pack pick up
a rental car load it and
drive up to Ithaca it'll be
good to be in the big house
but I don't want to leave
hard as it is to live in
this city I'm still a sucker
for the lights of Amsterdam
Avenue the bright yellow of
taxis in snow I feel like
a runner with a big lead off
first base who slides into second
and when the catcher's throw
skips into center field he hustles
to third his uniform streaked
with dirt he's safe


Today is the Christian feast of Pentecost, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles as tongues of flame. Pentecost-from the Greek word for "fifty days"-falls fifty days, or on the seventh Sunday, after Easter. Pentecost is also known as "Whitsunday," or "White Sunday."

It's the birthday of journalist and screenwriter Nora Ephron, born in New York City (1941). She was the daughter of screenwriters, grew up in Beverly Hills, and had her first taste of fame when her parents based a play on her letters home from Wellesley College. She went on the write for Vogue, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, and other magazines, and to publish several collections of her magazine articles. Her first screenplay was for the movie Silkwood (1983), in collaboration with Alice Arlen. This was followed by When Harry Met Sally... (1989), This Is My Life (1992) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

It's the birthday of African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, born in Chicago, Illinois (1930). As a girl living in a white neighborhood in Chicago, she felt the effects of racism. When a mob tried to drive the family out of the segregated neighborhood, her father took the case to the Supreme Court, which in Hansberry v. Lee ruled that whites couldn't bar blacks from moving into their neighborhoods. Lorraine Hansberry attended public schools, then moved to New York City, where she ended up working as a journalist and taking part in civil rights protests. Her first play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), was the first play by a black woman to appear on Broadway. It was a huge success.

It's the birthday of Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, in Omaha, Nebraska (1925). When he was five, his home was firebombed, and a year later his father was kidnapped, beaten, and left on a trolley track to be run over and killed. His mother was later committed to a state mental asylum, and young Malcolm ended up being sent to a juvenile detention home for delinquency. After he got out, he made his way to Boston, where he got mixed up with a burglary ring, and was sentenced to ten years in prison. While he was in prison, he became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. His Autobiography, as told to Alex Haley, was published in 1964. Shortly before his assassination, he said: "I am a Muslim, and my religion makes me be against all forms of racism. It keeps me from judging any man by the color of his skin. It teaches me to judge him by his deeds and his conscious behavior. And it teaches me to be for the rights of all human beings."

On this day in 1780, an unexplained, near-total darkness fell over much of New England, at midday. The more superstitious believed that doomsday had come. In New Haven, Connecticut, Colonel Abraham Davenport spoke out against adjourning the town council on account of the darkness. He said: "I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought."

On this day in 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon. Its mission was to gain control of the English Channel and launch an invasion of Britain. Stormy weather delayed the fleet's arrival, which gave England's navy time to prepare. When the Armada reached the southern coast of England in July, the British were able to fight them off with superior long-range guns.


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

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »