Dec. 31, 2002
Like Smoke from Our Campfire
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Poem: "Like Smoke From Our Campfire" and "Tomorrow," by David Budbill.
Like Smoke From Our Campfire
All those plans for fame and fortune, honor and glory,
where are they now?
Drifted away like smoke from our campfire, dissipated
into the thin, night air,
the fire deserted and gone down to a few ashy coals,
And all of those who sat around the fire: gone away too
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
Drunk on music,
who needs wine?
let's go dancing
still got feet.
Today is the last day of the year, New Year's Eve Day -- the celebration of which goes back to the Romans in 153 B.C. By their calendar, however, January 1st fell where April 1st falls now, toward the beginning of spring. The Romans gathered like we do now to dance and sing and, at the stroke of midnight, wish each other a happy and prosperous new year. Today we sing "Auld Lang Sine," which means "old long since," or "the good old days," written by Robert Burns in 1788.
On this night in 1897, a solemn ceremony was held to commemorate the final day of the existence of the city of Brooklyn before its incorporation into New York City. The rest of the city was jubilant; crowds gathered, fireworks were set off everywhere, and bands played "The One New York Two-Step."
It's the birthday of artist Henri Matisse, born in Le Cateau, France (1869). He's the author of the rare book Jazz (1947). At the end of his life, because he was an invalid, he stopped painting and began using cut paper to make collages.
It's the birthday of Catherine Read Williams, born
in Providence, Rhode Island (1790). She wrote Fall River: An Authentic Narrative,
one of the earliest examples of public reporting in the United States. It was
an account of the mysterious death of Sarah Cornell, a young mill worker whose
body was found hanging in a barn one winter day in 1832. She was several months
pregnant, and her death was ruled a suicide until a note was found in her belongings:
"If I am gone missing enquire of the Rev. Mr. Avery of Bristol; he will
know where I am." Reverend Ephriam Avery was a prominent Methodist minister,
a married man with several children. A posse found him hiding in New Hampshire
and brought him back for trial, but Avery was acquitted on all counts. In her
book about the murder, Williams had a lot to say about the corruption of the
New England clergy, and it caused a great sensation when it was released.
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