Sep. 23, 2007

My Daughter’s Morning

by David Swanger

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Poem: "My Daughter's Morning" by David Swanger from Wayne's College of Beauty. © BkMk Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

My Daughter's Morning

My daughter's morning streams
over me like a gang of butterflies
as I, sour-mouthed and not ready
for the accidents I expect

of my day, greet her early:
her sparkle is as the edge of new
ice on leafed pools, while I
am soggy, tepid; old toast.

Yet I am the first version
of later princes; for all my blear
and bluish jowl I am welcomed
as though the plastic bottle

I hold were a torch and
my robe not balding terry.
For her I bring the day; warm
milk, new diaper, escapades;

she lowers all bridges and
sings to me most beautifully
in her own language while
I fumble with safety pins.

I am not made young
by my daughter's mornings;
I age relentlessly.

Yet I am made to marvel
at the durability of newness
and the beauty of my new one.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of a writer who had the worst publishing deal in history, William Holmes McGuffey, born near Claysville, Pennsylvania (1800). He wrote and edited a series of schoolbooks called "McGuffey's Readers," used in schools for 50 years. The books sold over 125 million copies, but McGuffey was paid only $1,000.

On this day in 1806, Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis from their two-year expedition to the Pacific Coast. People were shocked to see them. There had been rumors that they had been killed, or that they'd been captured by the Mexicans and forced into slave labor. They were running out of food the last few days and were living on plums they picked along the river. A thousand residents of St. Louis stood on the banks of the river to watch them arrive. There were gunfire salutes, and church bells rang. Lewis and Clark carried with them maps of the West and detailed journals that gave Americans their first authoritative account of what was out there.

It's the birthday of the tragic poet Euripides, born near Athens in 480 B.C.E. Of the three poets of Greek tragedy whose plays survive, Euripides' plays survive in the greatest number. He probably wrote 92 plays, and 19 of them have been preserved. Compared to other tragedians, Euripides portrayed the gods as much more petty and uncaring, and he made his characters more human, flawed and fully rounded. He was also one of the first writers to treat women as major characters in his plays. He's perhaps best known for his tragedy Medea (431 B.C.), about a woman who murders her own sons to get back at the husband who left her.

It's the birthday of Bruce Springsteen, (albums by this musician) born in Freehold, New Jersey. He is 58 today. His father did odd jobs; his mother was a secretary to support the family. The boy didn't do well in school and people thought he had no ambition. Then one day, he saw Elvis on TV and he put together $18 to buy a second-hand guitar. He said, "Music was my way of keeping people from looking through and around me. I wanted the heavies to know I was around." By the time he was 14, he was playing in local bands on the bar circuit, bands with names like the Rogues, the Castiles, the Steel Mill, and Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom. He played at private parties, firemen's balls, trailer parks, prisons, state mental hospitals, a rollerdrome, and even a shopping center parking lot. His first album was Greetings from Asbury Park (1973).

Bruce Springsteen said, "If I have a good trait, it's probably relentlessness, I'm a hound dog on the prowl. I can't be shook!"

It's the birthday of John Coltrane, (albums by this musician) born in Hamlet, North Carolina (1926). When asked to describe his style, he said, "I start in the middle of a sentence and move both directions at once."

And it's the birthday of the Father of Soul, Ray Charles, (albums by this musician) born in Albany, Georgia (1930).

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