Mar. 4, 2007

A Church in Italy

by Thom Tammaro

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Poem: "A Church in Italy" by Tom Tammaro, from When the Italians Came to My Home Town. © Spoon River Poetry Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

A Church in Italy

Last summer, in church in Italy,

           I prayed for all of you, asked not for forgiveness

                      And strength, but that all the sadness of our days,

All the grief of our lives,

           All the loneliness given us be taken,

                      Without judgment — asked for life and light.

That was the first time in twenty-three years something

           Like that happened to me. Not knowing the modern prayers,

                      I fell back on the old way of ending prayer, recited:

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

           And to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning,

                      Is now, and ever shall be, world without end

Then dropped some lire coins in the metal offering box,

           Walked through the heavily curtained doorway into the

                      Mediterranean heat, into the hard traffic of the village,

                                 Into the harsh light of the afternoon

                                            Into this world without end.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of crime novelist James Ellroy, (books by this author) born in Los Angeles, California (1948). He is best known for his "LA Quartet," a series of four novels that attempt to depict the criminal history of Los Angeles from the 1940s through the 1950s. The first book in the series was Black Dahlia (1987).

It's the birthday of the novelist Khaled Hosseini, (books by this author) born in Kabul, Afghanistan (1965). His first novel, The Kite Runner, became a word-of-mouth best-seller after it came out in 2003, and it's now sold more than 3 million copies.

Hosseini grew up the son of an Afghani diplomat. They were living in Paris when the Soviet Union had invaded their country. Hosseini's father applied for political asylum in the United States, and the family moved there in 1980. In Afghanistan, Hosseini's family had been wealthy and respected, and he'd grown up surrounded by servants. But when they settled in San Jose, California, his family had to survive on welfare and food stamps. The only job his father could find was working as a driving instructor.

Hosseini had wanted to be a writer from the time he was 10 years old, but watching his family struggle to pay the bills, he realized that he needed a more practical profession. So he went to medical school, and for the next 10 years, he didn't even have time to think about writing. But after Hosseini got a job as an internist at a hospital in Sunnyvale, California, he began to write in his spare time, and much of what he wrote concerned his memories of Afghanistan.

And he wrote The Kite Runner (2003) about two friends, one rich and one poor, growing up in Afghanistan in the years before the Soviet invasion. After the invasion, the rich boy moves to America with his family, and he later learns that his childhood friend was killed by the Taliban. So he travels back to Afghanistan to try to rescue his friend's surviving son.

It was on this day in 1789 that the U.S. Constitution went into effect, and so it was that this day was chosen as the original Inauguration Day. Just about every president from Washington to Roosevelt was inaugurated on this day. Washington's first inauguration was delayed until April 30th, but his second inauguration took place on this day in 1793, and he delivered the shortest inaugural address in history. It was only 135 words long.

President Andrew Jackson was inaugurated on this day in 1829. He invited the American public to the White House, and more than 20,000 drunken partygoers showed up.

On this day in 1841 William Henry Harrison stood outside in an ice storm and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history. It was 8,445 words long, and it took Harrison two hours to deliver it. He died a month later from pneumonia.

Abraham Lincoln's first and second inaugural addresses, delivered on this day in 1861 and 1865, are generally considered the greatest inaugural addresses in American history. His second inaugural address included the great lines "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." Photographs of Lincoln's second inauguration show John Wilkes Booth in the audience, watching.

Franklin Roosevelt was the last president to be inaugurated on this day in 1933. He was a polio survivor, and couldn't walk without great difficulty. But in spite of that, Roosevelt walked 37 steps up to the podium, and he stood there for five minutes in order to deliver his address.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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