Oct. 30, 2007

As Death Approaches

by Susan Deborah King

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Poem: "As Death Approaches" by Susan Deborah King, from One-Breasted Woman. © Holy Cow! Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

As Death Approaches

I can't believe I'm laughing!
I'd have sworn I'd be
shaking or sniveling.
And I sure didn't expect
a limousine.
I've never been in a limousine.
No biggy.
I've had better than fame.
Who needs the pressure?
As for fortune, I'm filthy.
That's why I'm laughing.
I've had so much love:
the giving, the getting.
It's shameful.
It's embarrassing.
And it's too late.
No one can take it away!
And I've had the pain
to help me appreciate it.
Thank God for the pain!
Easy for me to say
now that I'm going!
But no, seriously,
the kicks in the teeth,
the gut, the rugs
pulled out, slammed doors,
setbacks, snubs.
Without them, I'd
never have recognized
Love, bedraggled,
plain eyes shining,
happy to see me.
Do I want more?
Of course I want more!
I always want more
of everything: money, hugs,
lovemaking, art, butter,
woods, flowers, the sea,
M&Ms, chips, tops, bottoms,
trips — I did give up drinking —
time, sure, and yes,
I'd like to see
my grandchildren,
if there are any.
I'd like to see my books
but more has never
been good for me anyway.
Enough — that's what I've
always needed to learn,
and is there a better way?
So this laughter
I had to work up to
through so many tears,
it just keeps coming
like a fountain, a spray.
Let it light on you
refreshment, benediction,
as I'm driven away.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Irma Rombauer, (books by this author) born in St. Louis (1877). She wrote one of the most popular cookbooks of all time, The Joy of Cooking (1935), even though she was a terrible cook, according to her own family. But her lack of cooking experience was an advantage, because hers was the first cookbook aimed at women who did not have any experience making food from scratch. It was the first cookbook to endorse the use of convenient ingredients, like canned soup, and it was full of humorous advice for people who felt clueless in the kitchen.

It's the birthday of Ezra Pound, (books by this author) born in Hailey, Idaho (1885), who discovered, promoted, mentored, edited, or first published many of the major English-language writers of the early 20th century. He helped the careers of his childhood friend Hilda Doolittle and his college classmate William Carlos Williams. He was the first to write enthusiastic reviews of D.H. Lawrence and Robert Frost. He was the first critic to recognize the genius of James Joyce and became Joyce's unofficial literary agent. And in 1915, he read a poem called "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by a young banker named T. S. Eliot and sent it off to Poetry magazine, where he was serving as the foreign editor. He threatened to resign his position at the magazine if they didn't publish the poem within the year. A few years later, he helped edit Eliot's poem "The Wasteland," cutting the poem down by about half. And it was that edited version that came out to great acclaim in 1922. Eliot dedicated the poem to Pound.

Ezra Pound said, "Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree."

It's the birthday of the second president of the United States, John Adams, born in Braintree, Massachusetts (now part of Quincy, Massachusetts) (1735). He was one of the first advocates for a break from Great Britain that anybody took seriously, because he was a well-respected lawyer and did not have the reputation of a radical. At the time, many politicians thought it was madness to try to fight a war against Great Britain. But Adams stood up at the Second Continental Congress on July 1, 1776 and spoke without notes for about two hours in favor of independence. No one knows exactly what he said that day, because no one transcribed his words, but Thomas Jefferson later said, "[Adams spoke] with a power of thought and expression that moved us from our seats." The resolution for independence was adopted the following day, on July 2, 1776.

It was Adams who nominated George Washington to serve as commander of the Continental Army, and it was Adams who chose Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. He knew that both men would do a good job, but he also knew that Virginia's support for independence was essential, and both men were from Virginia. But he was overshadowed by Washington and Jefferson for the rest of his life. He served as the second president of the United States, but never felt that he lived up to the reputation of George Washington, and when he ran for a second term, he was defeated by Thomas Jefferson. Of the first five presidents, he was the only one to serve a single term.

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




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