Jun. 1, 2007

Spring Evening on Blind Mountain

by Louise Erdrich

FRIDAY, 1 JUNE, 2007
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Poem: "Spring Evening on Blind Mountain" by Louise Erdrich, from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Spring Evening on Blind Mountain

I won't drink wine tonight
I want to hear what is going on
not in my own head
but all around me.
I sit for hours
outside our house on Blind Mountain.
Below this scrap of yard
across the ragged old pasture,
two horses move
pulling grass into their mouths, tearing up
wildflowers by the roots.
They graze shoulder to shoulder.
Every night they lean together in sleep.
Up here, there is no one
for me to fail.
You are gone.
Our children are sleeping.
I don't even have to write this down.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet John Masefield (books by this author), born in Ledbury, England (1878). He wrote the famous lines, "I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, / And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

It's the birthday of Brigham Young (books by this author), born in Wittingham, Vermont (1801). He grew up in a strict, religious household in upstate New York. He got married in 1824, when he was 23, and he and his wife joined the Methodist Church. Then in April of 1830, Mormon missionaries passed through Young's town. He was skeptical at first, but two years later, he was baptized as a Latter-day Saint.

He went on to meet and impress the leader of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, and Smith appointed Young to be the leader of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Then, when Smith was killed in 1844, Young was made president of the Mormon Church. Two years later, after being threatened and attacked by locals in various Midwestern towns, he led a group on a trek to the West, searching for a place to set up the Mormon headquarters. He finally decided on Salt Lake City, Utah. Young said, "We have been kicked out of the frying-pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay."

It's the birthday of actress Marilyn Monroe (books by this author), born Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles, California (1926). Growing up, she was passed around between her mother and a series of foster parents. Eventually, she wound up with her mother's friend Grace McKee, who worked in the movie industry. Grace worshiped movie stars and told Monroe that she would be a movie star herself one day. She taught Monroe to act like the women she saw in movies; took her to beauty parlors, dressed her up in fancy clothes, and had her practice smiles and pouts in the mirror. They went to lots of movies together. After Grace McKee got married, Monroe had to live for a while in an orphanage, and at night she would stare out the window at the water tower of RKO Studios.

During World War II, Monroe got a job at an aircraft factory called Radioplane, where she sprayed glue on fabrics and inspected and folded parachutes. She was working at the factory when a group of photographers showed up to take pictures of women working for the war effort. The photographers noticed her right away, and they persuaded her to become a model. She bleached her hair and began to appear on the covers of magazines.

Monroe wanted to be an actress, but she had trouble finding the right part. For a while, directors just cast her in any movie that called for a dumb blonde. Her first big success was the comic musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Everyone had been trying to sell her as a "love goddess," but it turned out that she had a gift for comedy. She died just nine years after that first big success.

Marilyn Monroe said, "I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful."

It's the birthday of novelist Colleen McCullough (books by this author), born in Wellington, Australia (1937). She's the author of The Thorn Birds (1977)(buy now), an epic novel that tells the story of an Australian family across three generations.

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




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