May 19, 2003
The Blue Bowl
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Poem: "The Blue Bowl," by Jane Kenyon from Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press).
The Blue Bowl
Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-handed
we scraped sand and gravel
back into the hole.
They fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feathers
between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.
We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows keener than these.
Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
burbles from a dripping bush
like the neighbor who means well
but always says the wrong thing.
It's the birthday of American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1930. Her parents were both civil rights activists, and moved into a white neighborhood when she was eight years old. They were met by an angry mob. A civil trial ensued, and it was this experience that formed the basis for her most successful play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), whose title comes from a Langston Hughes poem. In it, she wrote, "[W]e have decided to move into our house because my father--my father--he earned it for us brick by brick. We don't want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that's all we got to say about that." Hansberry died in 1965 from cancer at the age of 34, and her friend James Baldwin wrote about the last time he saw her: "...She was seated, talking, dressed all in black, wearing a very handsome wide, black hat, thin, and radiant. I knew she had been ill, but I didn't know, then, how seriously. I said, 'Lorraine, baby, you look beautiful, how in the world do you do it?' She was leaving ... and she turned and smiled that smile and said, 'It helps to develop a serious illness, Jimmy!' and waved and disappeared."
It's the birthday of civil rights activist Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska (1925). He had a tumultuous youth. His father Earl was a Baptist minister and an outspoken supporter of the Black Rights movement. By the time Malcolm was seven years old, his family's house had been burned to the ground and his father had been kidnapped and killed. Eight years later, his mother had an emotional breakdown and was committed to a mental institution. Malcolm and his siblings were all put into foster homes and orphanages. Malcolm was very bright and excelled in school, but his teachers seriously discouraged him in his dream of becoming a lawyer. He eventually lost interest in studying. In 1946, he was convicted on burglary charges and sentenced to 7 years in prison. While incarcerated, he became interested in the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and converted to the Nation of Islam. Malcolm adopted the new surname "X", which was symbolic of his lost African name and heritage. When he was released from prison, he became one of the leading spokesmen for the Nation of Islam, and dedicated himself to the issues of black pride and unity. Malcolm's popularity as a speaker continued to grow, but he became disillusioned with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammad. He severed his ties to the Nation of Islam in1964 and formed a new organization called the Muslim Mosque. In the same year, he also made a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It was a life-changing event. Malcolm X said, "[I met] blonde-haired, blue-eyed men I could call my brothers," and, "I've seen too much of the damage narrow-mindedness can make of things, and when I return home to America, I will devote what energies I have to repairing the damage." Malcolm relaxed his stance on black separatism when he came back to America, and on February 21, 1965, he was shot and killed at a rally at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. He was 39 years old.
It's the birthday of director and screenwriter Nora
Ephron, born in New York City, (1941). She originally intended to take
a different path from her parents, who were both screenwriters, and instead
pursued a career in journalism. She wrote for the New York Post and Esquire,
but was eventually drawn into writing scripts and screenplays. Since 1978, she
has written and directed 19 films, including This is My Life (1992),
Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and You've Got Mail (1998). Her films
Silkwood (1983) and When Harry Met Sally (1989) were both nominated
for Academy Awards for Best Screenplay.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®