May 30, 2007
Falling Asleep in a Garden
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Poem: "Falling Asleep in a Garden" by David Wagoner from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Falling Asleep in the Garden
All day the bees have come to the garden.
They hover, swivel in arcs and, whirling, light
On stamens heavy with pollen, probe and revel
Inside the yellow and red starbursts of dahlias
Or cling to lobelia's blue-white mouths
Or climb the speckled trumpets of foxgloves.
My restless eyes follow their restlessness
As they plunge bodily headfirst into treasure,
Gold-fevered among these horns of plenty.
They circle me, a flowerless patch
With nothing to offer in the way of sweetness
Or light against the first omens of evening.
Some, even now, are dying at the end
Of their few weeks, some being born in the dark,
Some simply waiting for life, but some are dancing
Deep in their hives, telling the hungry
The sun will be that way, the garden this far:
This is the way to the garden. They hum at my ear.
And I wake up, startled, seeing the early
Stars beginning to bud in constellations.
The bees have gathered somewhere like petals closing
For the coming of the cold. The silhouette
Of a sphinx moth swerves to drink at a flowerhead.
The night-blooming moon opens its pale corolla.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It was on this day in 2002 that city workers held a wordless ceremony marking the end of the recovery and cleanup at Ground Zero in New York City.
The cleanup crew had consisted of more than 7000 firefighters, policemen, construction workers, and volunteers. The site covered 17 acres and rose 150 feet above the street. Some of the steel columns pulled from the piles glowed red. The workers eventually removed 1 1/2 million tons of debris in more than 100,000 truckloads.
The ceremony on this day in 2002 took place at 10:29 a.m., the precise time at which the second of the twin towers collapsed. A New York City firefighter struck a bell 20 times, the traditional ceremony for a fallen firefighter. The New York City Fire Department had lost 343 firefighters on September 11th.
A group of firefighters and police officers played bagpipes and drums as a flatbed truck carried away the last steel beam to be removed from the site. Many of the workers had written their names on the beam. Most of the 200,000 tons of steel recovered from the site were cut down into three-foot sections and sold primarily to Asian scrap metal companies, to be recycled for use in cars and appliances and all manner of ordinary objects and machines.
It's the birthday of filmmaker Howard Hawks (books by this author), born in Goshen, Indiana (1896). He's best known for directing Westerns such as Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959), but he also made the science fiction movie The Thing (1951), the gangster movie Scarface (1932), the screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), and the detective movie The Big Sleep (1946).
He almost always shot scenes at eye level, because, he said, "That's the way a man sees it." He never used camera tricks and he rarely even moved the camera. When asked about his style as a filmmaker, he said, "I just aim ... at the actors."
It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France. She revitalized the French Army by claiming she was on a mission from God, but she was captured by the English and tried for heresy.
Her trial lasted for months. Every day she was brought into the interrogation room, where she was the only woman among judges, priests, soldiers, and guards. The judges hoped to trick her into saying something that would incriminate her as a witch or an idolater, so they asked endless questions about all aspects of her life, in no particular order. They were especially interested in her childhood, and because the transcripts of the trial were recorded, we now know more about her early life than any other common person of her time.
After months of questioning, she was told that if she didn't sign a confession, she would be put to death. She finally signed it, but a few days later she renounced the confession, and on this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake. She was 19 years old.
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