Oct. 14, 2005
Smell and Envy
Poem: "Smell and Envy" by Douglas Goetsch from Nobody's Hell. © Hanging Loose Press. Reprinted with permission.
Smell and Envy
You nature poets think you've got it, hostaged
somewhere in Vermont or Oregon,
so it blooms and withers only for you,
so all you have to do is name it: primrose
and now you're writing poetry, and now
you ship it off to us, to smell and envy.
But we are made of newspaper and smoke
and we dunk your roses in vats of blue.
Birds don't call, our pigeons play it close
to the vest. When the moon is full
we hear it in the sirens. The Pleiades
you could probably buy downtown. Gravity
is the receiver on the hook. Mortality
we smell on certain people as they pass.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, in which William Duke of Normandy came across the channel from France and defeated the army of Harold II of England. The Normans became the rulers of England, and French was introduced into the English language. William had an army of about 7,000 cavalry and infantry. Harold had about as many men, but many of them untrained peasants. It was a close battle until William Duke of Normandy pretended to retreat and drew the Englishmen out of their position in pursuit and then turned and annihilated them.
It's the birthday of a great military man, Dwight D. Eisenhower born in Denison, Texas (1890). He grew up in a poor family that was very religious. His mother was a pacifist. When her son chose to go to West Point for college, she broke down in tears. He graduated in the class of 1915 and took a position training soldiers after he graduated.
He wanted to go overseas to fight in World War I, but it ended a week before he was supposed to go over to Europe. He wrote a guidebook of World War I battlefields, but was then stationed in the Philippines.
He finally got back to the United States in 1939, and was stationed at a based in Louisiana where he supervised the largest military games ever carried out in this country, a simulation designed to help prepare for a land war in Europe. Eisenhower planned the strategy for the invading army, and the following December, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he was put in charge of the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.
It's the birthday of the poet and essayist Katha Pollitt, born in New York City (1949).
It's the birthday of the poet e.e. cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1894).
It's the birthday of the short story writer Katherine Mansfield, born in Wellington, New Zealand (1888). She was the daughter of a successful businessman who sent her away to school in England. Her parents came to get her from England when she was 18. They brought her back to New Zealand, and she found that she no longer had anything in common with them.
She became one of the wildest bohemians in New Zealand. She had affairs with men and women, lived with Aborigines, and published scandalous stories. She moved back to London and lived in the bohemian scene there. At one point, she married a man she barely knew, and left him before the wedding night was over because she couldn't stand the pink bedspread.
She didn't begin to write the stories that made her famous until her younger brother came to see her in 1915. They had long talks, reminiscing about growing up in New Zealand. He left that fall for World War I and was killed two months later. She was devastated by his death, and she wrote a series of short stories about her childhood, including "The Garden Party" which many critics consider to be her masterpiece.
She said, "Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare fiddle?"
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