Tuesday

May 13, 2003

Museum Guard

by David Hernandez

TUESDAY, 13 MAY 2003
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Poem: "Museum Guard," by David Hernandez from A House Waiting for Music (Tupelo Press).

Museum Guard

My condolences to the man dressed
for a funeral, sitting bored
on a gray folding chair, the zero

of his mouth widening in a yawn.
No doubt he's pictured himself inside
a painting or two around his station,

stealing a plump green grape
from the cluster hanging above
the corkscrew locks of Dionysus,

or shooting arrows at rosy-cheeked cherubs
hiding behind a woolly cloud.
With time limping along

like a Bruegel beggar, no doubt
he's even seen himself taking the place
of the one crucified: the black spike

of the minute hand piercing his left palm,
the hour hand penetrating the right,
nailed forever to one spot.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of painter Georges Braque, born in Argenteuil-sur-Seine, France in 1882. He painted scenes of villages where the buildings were reduced to their basic geometrical shape, the cube, and along with Pablo Picasso became a leader of Cubism. Georges Braque said: "There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain."

It's the birthday of one half of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera writing team, Arthur Seymour Sullivan, born in London in 1842. He began collaborating with William Gilbert in 1871, and the pair would go on to write fourteen enormously popular comic operas, including Trial by Jury (1875), The Mikado (1885), and The Pirates of Penzance (1879). After a string of successes, they had their own theatre built for them, the Savoy, where they premiered Patience (1881).

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Roger Zelazny, born in Euclid, Ohio in 1937. He was part of science fiction's "New Wave" in the 1960s, a group of writers that focused on character development and psychology and thought that science fiction should be taken seriously as literature. He wrote over 150 short stories and 50 books, including Lords of Light (1967) and Creatures of Light and Darkness (1969).

It's the birthday of novelist Armistead Maupin, born Armistead Jones in Washington, D.C. in 1944. He's famous for his Tales of the City series, which evolved from a regular column he wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle, beginning May 24, 1976. The novels focus on a group of gay and straight characters who share a boarding house in San Francisco.

It's the birthday of the novelist who wrote Rebecca (1938), Daphne du Maurier, born in London in 1907. She spent most of her adult life in the coastal town of Cornwall, known for its stormy, unpredictable weather. Her three most famous novels, Jamaica Inn (1936), Frenchman's Creek (1941), and Rebecca (1938), are all set in Cornwall. Rebecca is narrated by a young, nameless woman who marries a rich widower and lives in a mysterious house ruled by an odd housekeeper who remains devoted to the man's dead wife, Rebecca. Orson Welles dramatized Rebecca on a radio program in 1938, and two years later Alfred Hitchcock made it into a movie.

It's the birthday of travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin, born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, in 1940. One day he woke up half blind, and a doctor suggested that he stop looking at pictures and go to Africa with its wide horizons. He took the doctor's advice and soon left for the Sudan, where he journeyed on camel and foot through the hills of the Red Sea. He began writing a column for the London Times. For one of his articles, he went to see the ninety-three year-old architect Eileen Gray in Paris. When Chatwin saw that she had a map of Patagonia on her apartment wall, he said he had always wanted to go there. She said, "So have I. Go there for me." Chatwin left the next day, leaving a cable for the London Times that said, "Have Gone to Patagonia." He took a few provisions and during his time in Patagonia, a small area on the southern tip of South America, he collected the material for what would become his first book, In Patagonia (1977). His travel writings include Anatomy of Restlessness (1997) and What Am I Doing Here (1989), and his novels include Utz (1984) and The Songlines (1987).


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