Jan. 8, 2004

After School on Ordinary Days

by Maria Mazziotti Gillan

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Poem: "After School on Ordinary Days," by Maria Mazziotti Gillan from Italian Women in Black Dresses (Guernica).

After School on Ordinary Days

After school on ordinary days we listened
to The Shadow and The Lone Ranger
as we gathered around the tabletop radio
that was always kept on the china cabinet
built into the wall in that tenement kitchen,
a china cabinet that held no china, except
thick and white and utilitarian,
cups and saucers, poor people's cups
from the 5 & 10 cent store.
My mother was always home
from Ferraro's Coat factory
by the time we walked in the door
after school on ordinary days,
and she'd give us milk with Bosco in it
and cookies she'd made that weekend.
The three of us would crowd around the radio,
listening to the voices that brought a wider world
into our Paterson apartment. Later

we'd have supper at the kitchen table,
the house loud with our arguments
and laughter. After supper on ordinary
days, our homework finished, we'd play
monopoly or gin rummy, the kitchen
warmed by the huge coal stove, the wind
outside rattling the loose old windows,
we inside, tucked in, warm and together,
on ordinary days that we didn't know
until we looked back across a distance
of forty years would glow and shimmer
in memory's flickering light.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Alexandra Ripley, born in Charleston, South Carolina (1934). She wrote several books, including Who's That Lady in the President's Bed (1972) and New Orleans Legacy (1987), before being chosen by Margaret Mitchell's estate to write Scarlett (1992), a sequel to Gone with the Wind (1936).

It's the birthday of the "King of Rock and Roll," Elvis Aaron Presley, born in Tupelo, Mississippi (1935).

It's the birthday of writer and poet Charles Tomlinson, born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England (1927).

It's the birthday of writer and educator Evelyn Wood, born in Ogden, Utah (1909). She founded the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Institute in 1959, to teach high-speed reading.

It's the birthday of novelist Dennis Wheatley, born in London, England (1897). He was one of the 20th century's most prolific and best-selling authors.

It's the birthday of novelist (Margaret) Storm Jameson, born in Whitby, England (1891). Her first novel, The Pot Boils, was published in 1919. This was followed by many other works of fiction, including a trilogy about a family of Yorkshire shipbuilders: The Lovely Ship (1927), The Voyage Home (193), and A Richer Dust (1931).

It's the birthday of poet and novelist John Neihardt, born near Sharpsburg, Illinois (1881). He moved to Nebraska in 1901, where he became fascinated with the Native Americans he met. His book of five epic poems, A Cycle of the West, begun in 1912 and published in 1942, was an account of the death of Crazy Horse and the Battle of Little Big Horn. His most famous work is Black Elk Speaks (1931).

It's the birthday of writer Wilkie Collins, born in London, England (1824). He was one of the best known and best paid Victorian fiction writers. He wrote 25 novels, more than 50 short stories, 15 plays, and more than one hundred non-fiction pieces. He's the author of Antonina (1850), Mr Wray's Cash-Box (1852), and Basil: A Story of Modern Life (1852). He was a close friend of Charles Dickens for more than twenty years.

It's the birthday of physicist Stephen Hawking, born in Oxford, England (1942). After the publication of his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, he became a celebrity.

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