May 15, 2003
Public School 168
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Poem: "Public School 168," by Stewart Brisby from A Death In America (Wolverine Press).
Public School 168
like some remnant
of time-soaked simplicity
a childless carriage
on the east side of harlem.
a smile dances
when i envision
to manifest destinies
in which they were not included.
from a rooftop you hover
like a gothic ghost
above st. lucy's church
where black robed nuns
carried rulers & bars of soap
like guns strapped to their waists
speaking in tones
of catechism & guilt.
do you remember the eyes of the children?
lunch room smells?
the song of forgotten games?
"red light green light one two three "
i stand now
before your shattered broken face
echo the schoolyard
& i remember palms of hands
& eyes of children.
before we embraced the city
before we met the man who ate glass
& asked about our dreams.
It's the birthday of painter Jasper Johns, born in Augusta, Georgia in 1930, famous for his paintings of flags and maps in the '50s and '60s.
It's the birthday of writer Katherine Anne Porter, born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas in 1890. She wrote many essays and short stories, but she spent twenty years working on her only novel, The Ship of Fools, which made her famous when it was published in 1962. She said, "I finished the thing; but I think I sprained my soul." And, "I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction."
It's the birthday of the man who wrote The Wizard of
Oz, Lyman Frank Baum,
born in Chittenango, New York in 1856. His father was a rich oil tycoon, and
the family lived at an idyllic country home in upstate New York. He was a shy
and studious child. Frank had a heart condition his entire life and was never
able to exert himself physically. He had a heart attack at school and returned
home, where he turned his creativity toward writing and publishing. When he
was fifteen years old his father bought him a small printing press for his birthday,
and he and his brother Harry started a newspaper called The Rose Lawn Home
Journal. His first book was published in 1886 and was called The Book
of Hamburgs, A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of Different
Varieties of Hamburgs. He wrote a couple of plays and toured around the
country before settling down in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He ran a general store
that he called "Baum's Bazaar," where, with a cigar constantly dangling
from his mouth, he liked to entertain children by telling them fairy tales and
giving them candy as they gathered around on the dusty, wooden sidewalk. In
1897, he published his collection of Mother Goose stories, Mother Goose in
Prose. Two years later he met the illustrator William Denslow, and the pair
published Father Goose, His Book (1899), a huge success. In 1900, Baum
wrote the book that made him famous, The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by
Denslow. The book began as a story he told to some neighborhood children; Frank
thought it was so good that he stopped in the middle of the story to go start
writing it down. The story of Dorothy, her dog Toto, the Scarecrow, the Lion,
and the Tin Man, and their journey down the yellow brick road, was an instant
classic. Baum was a socialist, and The Emerald City of Oz was his socialist
utopia. He wrote, "There were no poor people in the land of Oz, because
there was no such thing as money, and all property of every sort belonged to
the Ruler. Each person was given freely by his neighbours whatever he required
for his use, which is as much as anyone may reasonably desire. Every one worked
half the time and played half the time, and the people enjoyed the work as much
as they did the play, because it is good to be occupied and to have something
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®