Jun. 10, 2005
The Summer I Was Sixteen
Poem: "The Summer I Was Sixteen" by Geraldine Connolly from Province of Fire. © Iris Press, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1998. Reprinted with permission.
The Summer I Was Sixteen
The turquoise pool rose up to meet us,
its slide a silver afterthought down which
we plunged, screaming, into a mirage of bubbles.
We did not exist beyond the gaze of a boy.
Shaking water off our limbs, we lifted
up from ladder rungs across the fern-cool
lip of rim. Afternoon. Oiled and sated,
we sunbathed, rose and paraded the concrete,
danced to the low beat of "Duke of Earl".
Past cherry colas, hot-dogs, Dreamsicles,
we came to the counter where bees staggered
into root beer cups and drowned. We gobbled
cotton candy torches, sweet as furtive kisses,
shared on benches beneath summer shadows.
Cherry. Elm. Sycamore. We spread our chenille
blankets across grass, pressed radios to our ears,
mouthing the old words, then loosened
thin bikini straps and rubbed baby oil with iodine
across sunburned shoulders, tossing a glance
through the chain link at an improbable world.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Terence Rattigan, London (1911), a popular British playwright in the '40s and '50s. He said he wrote for the common theatergoer, whom he called "Aunt Edna."
Terence Rattigan said, " A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute."
It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer, James Salter, born in New York City (1925). He's the author of The Hunters, The Arm of Flesh, and many Hollywood screenplays as well. James Salter said, "In the richness of language, it's grace, breadth, dexterity, lies its power. To speak with clarity, brevity and wit is like holding a lightning rod."
It's the birthday of Saul Bellow, born in Quebec, Canada (1915). He grew up in Chicago. He was often sick as a child, and spent his time reading the great classics of literature. Saul Bellow later said, "I came humbly, hat in hand, to literary America. I didn't ask for much; I had a book or two to publish. I didn't expect to make money at it. I saw myself at the tail end of a great glory. I was very moved by the books I had read in school, and I brought an offering to the altar."
His father wasn't happy that Bellow wanted to be a writer. He said, "You write and then you erase. You call that a profession?" His brothers went into more conventional careers and Bellow once said, "All I started out to do was to show up my brothers."
He wrote a couple of novels that didn't do that well. He went to Paris on a Guggenheim fellowship. He hated Paris. The more he hated Paris, the more he loved America and Chicago. It was there he began writing his first big successful book, The Adventures of Augie March.
It's the anniversary of the establishment of A(lcoholics) A(nonymous), (1935) in Akron, Ohio. It was founded by a stockbroker named Bill Wilson and a surgeon, Bob Smith, who found that the best way to keep from drinking was to spend time with other people who were trying to keep from drinking. Between the two of them, they developed the main traditions of AA: anonymity, confession, and mutual support.
Alcoholics Anonymous grew rapidly in the '40s and '50s, but Bill Wilson refused to appear on the cover of Time, wouldn't accept an honorary degree from Yale, because believed in anonymity, and he stuck with it to the end.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®