Jun. 14, 2007

Baby Girl Found

by Francette Cerulli

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Poem: "Baby Girl Found" by Francette Cerulli, from The Spirits Need To Eat. © Nine-Patch Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission.

Baby Girl Found

He found her wrapped in a brown towel
Beside the highway department dumpster.
She was so cold she was blue, so new
her umbilical stump still drooped softly
from her belly like the limp stem
of some fantastic fruit.

He picked her up in his huge gloved
highway department hands and
carried her to his truck. Inside the cab
he turned on the light, peeled the damp towel
from her body and held her
under the blast of the truck heater.

Giant midwife bent over her in the frozen morning,
He watched for the smallest sign.
It was her second birth.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Flag Day, June 14, the day on which the stars and stripes became officially our national flag in 1777. No one knows for sure, but probably it was designed by Congressman Francis Hopkinson and sewn by a seamstress in Philadelphia named Betsy Ross.

It's the birthday of the man who helped us find quotations, John Bartlett (books by this author), born in Plymouth, Massachusetts (1820). His Familiar Quotations came out in 1855.

It's the birthday of the woman who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (books by this author), born in Litchfield, Connecticut (1811). She lived for many years in Cincinnati, Ohio, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. Ohio didn't allow slavery, but Kentucky did, and so Cincinnati was a popular destination for escaped slaves. And Harriet Beecher Stowe saw many slaves rushing across the frozen river in the winter. Uncle Tom's Cabin came out in 1852.

It was on this day in 1940 that the German Army marched into Paris. The French had surrendered the city a few days earlier. There was no violence when the Nazis came in. The German soldiers marched through the Arc de Triomphe, while Parisians watched from the sidewalks of the Champs-Élysées. And a few weeks afterward, Hitler himself made a visit. He came to the Eiffel Tower and the Opera building and visited Napoleon's tomb. Hitler said, in 1941, "I'm getting ready to flatten Leningrad and Moscow without losing any peace of mind, but it would have pained me greatly if I'd had to destroy Paris."

It's the birthday of the travel writer Jonathon Raban (books by this author), born in Norfolk, England (1942), who grew up reading Huckleberry Finn, and in 1979 he flew into St. Paul, Minnesota, bought a little boat, set off down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and wrote about it in his first big travel book, Old Glory: An American Voyage. It came out in 1981.

And it was on this day in 1951 that the world's first commercially produced electronic digital computer was unveiled, known as the UNIVAC. It weighed eight tons, used 5,000 vacuum tubes and cost a quarter-million dollars. But it could perform a thousand calculations per second, the fastest rate in the world at the time. The first one was bought by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The president of IBM thought that computers were far too complex and would never sell, but with the invention of the microchip in 1971, all the processing power of those thousands of vacuum tubes could be crammed into a tiny space.

In 1975, an engineer named Ed Roberts was one of the first people to try to market a computer to ordinary people. It didn't sell very well. You had to know how to turn hundreds of little switches. But it was an inspiration to Stephen Wozniak – who went on to found Apple – and also to a young Harvard student named Bill Gates.

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