Thursday

Jan. 2, 2003

Any prince to any princess

by Adrian Henri

THURSDAY, 2 JANUARY 2003
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Poem: "Any prince to any princess," by Adrian Henri from The Loveless Motel (Jonathan Cape).

Any prince to any princess

August is coming
and the goose, I'm afraid,
is getting fat.
There have been
no golden eggs for some months now.
Straw has fallen well below market price
despite my frantic spinning
and the sedge is,
as you rightly point out,
withered.

I can't imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the
      Golden River,
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately
froggish.

I hope that the Three Wishes granted by the General
      Assembly
will go some way towards redressing
this unfortunate recent sequence of events.
The fall in output from the shoe-factory, for example:
no one could have foreseen the work-to-rule
by the National Union of Elves. Not to mention the fact
that the court has been fast asleep
for the last six and a half years.

The matter of the poisoned apple has been taken up
by the Board of Trade: I think I can assure you
the incident will not be
repeated.

I can quite understand, in the circumstances,
your reluctance to let down
your golden tresses. However
I feel I must point out
that the weather isn't getting any better
and I already have a nasty chill
from waiting at the base
of the White Tower. You must see
the absurdity of the
      situation.
Some of the courtiers are beginning to talk,
not to mention the humble villagers.
It's been three weeks now, and not even
a word.

Princess,
a cold, black wind
howls through our empty palace.
Dead leaves litter the bedchamber;
the mirror on the wall hasn't said a thing
since you left. I can only ask,
bearing all this in mind,
that you think again,

let down your hair,

reconsider.



On this day in 1975, Kenneth Brugger discovered where monarch butterflies from North America spend the winter. Scientists had been looking for the place for generations. They knew monarchs flew south to Mexico, but they had never been able to find out where they went. Brugger, a textile chemist who was living in Mexico City, saw an ad asking for help tracing the monarchs' migratory path, and remembered driving through a storm of monarchs once on a vacation, in the mountains west of Mexico City. He had no luck there at first, but when he brought his wife Catalina, who was Mexican, the local farmers were less reluctant to tell them where they thought the butterflies might be. At last a farmer led them up the side of a remote mountain, through dense stands of fir, until they came to a meadow filled with millions of butterflies. The monarchs clung to the foliage in such profusion that the trees looked orange instead of green.

It's the birthday of Isaac Asimov, born in Petrovichi, Russia (1920). His family moved to Brooklyn in 1923, where they ran a candy shop for 40 years. He wrote, edited or compiled several hundred books on subjects ranging from Don Juan and the Bible to humor and mathematics, as well as writing dozens of works of science fiction. He typed ninety words a minute, and he worked ten hours a day, seven days a week. He tried to turn out four thousand words before he got up from his typewriter every day. Even though his works were centered on space travel and flight, Asimov was in fact irrationally afraid of flying. His phobia began while trying to impress a date at the 1940 New York World's Fair, when a trip on the roller coaster terrified him, and he realized that he was deathly afraid of height and flight. He traveled little in his lifetime because of this, staying close to his home in New York.

It's the birthday of Antarctic explorer and author Apsley Cherry-Garrard, born at Bedford, England in 1886. He is the author of the Antarctic travelogue, The Worst Journey in the World. His book is about a trip in 1912, seeking to find the eggs of the Emperor Penguin. He and his two companions traveled in near total darkness and temperatures that plummeted to negative 77.5 degrees Fahrenheit. He wrote, "Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised."


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