Aug. 21, 2007

Why I Have A Crush On You, UPS Man

by Alice N. Persons

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Poem: "Why I Have A Crush On You, UPS Man" by Alice N. Persons, from Don't Be A Stranger. © Sheltering Pines Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission.

Why I Have A Crush On You, UPS Man

you bring me all the things I order
are never in a bad mood
always have a jaunty wave as you drive away
look good in your brown shorts
we have an ideal uncomplicated relationship
you're like a cute boyfriend with great legs
who always brings the perfect present
(why, it's just what I've always wanted!)
and then is considerate enough to go away
oh, UPS Man, let's hop in your clean brown truck and elope !
ditch your job, I'll ditch mine
let's hit the road for Brownsville
and tempt each other
with all the luscious brown foods —
roast beef, dark chocolate,
brownies, Guinness, homemade pumpernickel, molasses cookies
I'll make you my mama's bourbon pecan pie
we'll give all the packages to kind looking strangers
live in a cozy wood cabin
with a brown dog or two
and a black and brown tabby
I'm serious, UPS Man. Let's do it.
Where do I sign?

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet X.J. Kennedy (books by this author), born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey (1929). He added an X to his name the first time he sent out a poem for publication, because he didn't want to be associated with more well-known Joseph Kennedy. The New Yorker published that poem, so Kennedy felt that the X had brought him luck and he kept it.

He originally wanted to be a cartoonist, but he had trouble drawing the same character twice. So he switched to poetry. At a time when most poets had given up rhyme and meter for free verse, he continued to write in traditional forms, and he wasn't afraid to be funny. He is now better known for his nonsense children's poetry in books such as One Winter Night in August (1975), The Phantom Ice Cream Man (1979), and Drat These Brats! (1993). His book The Lords of Misrule came out in 2002.

It's the birthday of novelist Robert Stone (books by this author), born in Brooklyn, New York (1937). He never knew his father, and only learned when he was an adult that his parents had never been married. His mother suffered from schizophrenia and had trouble keeping a job, so Stone grew up in a series of cheap rooming houses, welfare hotels, and an orphanage. At one point, he and his mother were so poor that they slept on a roof.

He got a job with the 1960 census, going door to door, and he said that experience taught him more about ordinary people than almost anything else he's ever done. In 1967, he published his first novel, A Hall of Mirrors, about a broadcaster for a right-wing radio station in New Orleans. The book was a minor success. The Vietnam War was on everyone's mind at the time, so he decided to go find out what was going on there. He got a job as a foreign correspondent in Saigon, but instead of focusing on the combat, he uncovered a vast illegal drug trade, which became the subject of his first successful novel, Dog Soldiers (1974).

It was on this day in 1858 that Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln began a series of seven debates during the Senate campaign for the state of Illinois. At the time, the country was deeply divided over the expansion of slavery into the Louisiana territories, and the debates were covered by newspapers across the country. One Washington, D.C., newspaper said, "The battle of the Union is to be fought in Illinois."

Stephen A. Douglas was the incumbent Democratic senator, and he supported expansion of slavery. Abraham Lincoln was the Republican candidate, and he opposed slavery expansion. They met seven times, outdoors, in village squares, county fairgrounds, college campuses, and vacant lots. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people showed up at each debate. People in the audience cheered for their candidates and occasionally fired off canons after an especially good point was made.

Douglas had the advantage of a loud voice, which was important in the age before microphones. Lincoln's voice was shrill and high pitched, but he spoke in simpler language, and used shorter sentences. And after that first debate, the two candidates were evenly matched. By the end, many observers thought Lincoln was the winner.

At one of the last debates, Lincoln said, "Whoever teaches that the Negro has no humble share in the Declaration of Independence, is going back to the hour of our own liberty and independence, and ... blowing out the moral lights around us ... eradicating from the human soul the love of liberty."

Douglas ended up winning the election by a slim margin, but the debate made Lincoln a national figure. Two years later, Lincoln ran for president. His campaign collected and published the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which became a national best-seller and helped Lincoln win the election in 1860 that started the Civil War.

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