Saturday

Dec. 14, 2002

Honesty

by Connie Wanek

SATURDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2002
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Poem: "Honesty," by Connie Wanek from Hartly Field (Holy Cow Press).

Honesty

I could easily be honest
if I were certain of the truth.
You remember the day as sunny and hot,
the car an oven, the air
rippling over the green chile fields.
I remember clouds building in the western sky
as quickly as if there'd been an explosion
out where the military tested
something big and vastly expensive
over and over.

Everyone seems so confident.
Those letters to the editor: "Get real" and
"Wake up, people!" The man from Pengilly
who keeps "loaded guns in readily accessible locations."

I honestly don't know why I had children
or why I sew, or garden,
except that if it's true we're made in God's image
we are born to create, or to try-
though when you smile at my earnestness
I see that you're right, I am naive.

I remember when our daughter realized
it was possible not to tell the truth.
She was three years old.
I saw something pass over her eyes, a petit mal,
leaving a kind of bright residue,
the shimmer of a most attractive lie, a fairy tale
no one had told her; yet she suddenly knew,
about a girl who never pinched a friend
however much she deserved it.

A hour passes and I'm no longer angry,
though it's true I was.
Sunlight streams through the screen door-
a late clearing, just as you predicted.
We're together in the kitchen,
a friendly bumping as we wash and slice
the green and red, yellow and white
ingredients, and stir them all in the kettle
until nothing is exclusively itself.


It's the birthday of short story writer Amy Hempel, born in Chicago, Illinois (1951). After her mother's suicide, and her own near-death experience in a motorcycle accident, she enrolled in an anatomy course that gave her a chance to be present at autopsies. The experience allowed her to become more comfortable with death. She went on to become a writer known for her dark, quirky short stories, like "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried."

It's the birthday of historical fiction writer Rosemary Sutcliff, born in East Clanden, Surrey, England (1920). She became known as England's best writer of historical novels for young people, with books such as The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), the first in a trilogy of novels set during the Roman occupation of Britain. She also published a popular trilogy of novels about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, including The Light Beyond the Forest (1979), The Sword and the Circle (1981), and The Road to Camlann (1981).

It's the birthday of novelist Shirley (Hardie) Jackson, born in San Francisco, California (1916). She's most famous for her story, "The Lottery," which appeared in the New Yorker in 1948. It's about a town's annual tradition of sacrificing a human in order to insure a good harvest. She also wrote books of nonfiction about raising a big family of children, Life Among the Savages (1953) and Raising Demons (1957).

On this day in 1799, George Washington died at his Mount Vernon estate. He had caught a chill while riding his horse in the damp winter weather two days earlier. At a memorial service organized by Congress two weeks later, Washington's old friend, Major General Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, delivered a famous eulogy that began, "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen."



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