May 22, 2003
Wedding Poem for Schele and Phil
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Poem: "Wedding Poem, for Schele and Phil," by Bill Holm.
For Schele and Phil
A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don't need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.
So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.
But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other's flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.
It's the birthday of novelist Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1859). In 1881, he graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in medicine. It was there that he met Dr. Joseph Bell. Bell would later serve as the model for Conan Doyle's famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Upon graduation from the university, Doyle served as ship's doctor on two vessels that sailed to Greenland and West Africa. He eventually set up his own practice in Portsmouth, England and wrote fiction in his spare time. In 1887, he wrote A Study in Scarlet, his third novel and the first that introduced Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. John Watson. Encouraged by his publishers, Conan Doyle wrote The Sign of Four three years later and published two-dozen short stories in The Strand magazine. The stories were immensely popular, but Doyle began to grow tired of his creation and attempted to end the series in 1894 by killing Holmes off in The Final Problem. There was a huge public outcry. One woman wrote him a letter with the opening line, "You brute!" He felt obliged to resurrect his hero, and Holmes and Watson later appeared in 34 additional short stories and 2 novels.
It's the birthday of children's author and illustrator Arnold Lobel, born in Los Angeles, California (1933). He was often sick as a child, and missed most of the second grade. However, he used this time to draw. When he returned, he made friends by making up stories and mixing in his own illustrations. These experiences formed the basis for his book Frog and Toad Are Friends (1971). In it, the main characters Frog and Toad have many wild adventures, but remain friends in spite of everything that happens. His book Fables (1981) won the Caldecott Medal, the highest honor in children's illustration.
It's the birthday of painter Mary Cassatt, born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (1844). After getting her degree at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she moved to Paris in 1865 and began studying the great masters in museums across Europe. Her career came into focus when she met Edgar Degas. Although he was an avowed misogynist, upon seeing Cassatt's work Degas said he would have never admitted that a woman could draw so well. He introduced her to the Impressionists, and she began showing her art in their exhibitions. Unlike the other Impressionists, Cassatt focused her painting on women and children in intimate settings instead of large social scenes. One of her favorite subjects was her sister Lydia.
It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Peter
Matthiessen, born in New York City, New York (1927). He writes largely
from his own travels to places that are isolated and where ways of life are
disappearing: Peru, Nepal, and New Guinea. His first novel Race Rock (1954)
established him as a writer who loved description and imagination. After visiting
all of the wildlife refuges in the United States, he wrote Wildlife in America
(1959), which tells the story of America's relationship with its animals
over the years. Matthiessen won the National Book Award for his novel The
Snow Leopard (1978), which chronicles his journey through Nepal in search
of the endangered animal. Even in his fiction, he's concerned with putting the
characters in the context of their environment. He said, "I like to hear
and smell the countryside, the land my characters inhabit. I don't want these
characters to step off the page, I want them to step out of the landscape."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®