Friday

Dec. 7, 2007

Snow

by Anne Sexton

FRIDAY, 7 DECEMBER, 2007
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Poem: "Snow" by Anne Sexton, from The Awful Rowing Toward God. © Houghton Mifflin, 1975. Reprinted with permission. (but now)

Snow

Snow,
blessed snow,
comes out of the sky
like bleached flies.
The ground is no longer naked.
The ground has on its clothes.
The trees poke out of sheets
and each branch wears the sock of God.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
I bite it.
Someone once said:
Don't bite till you know
if it's bread or stone.
What I bite is all bread,
rising, yeasty as a cloud.

There is hope.
There is hope everywhere.
Today God gives milk
and I have the pail.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia (1928), who started out as a linguist at a time when most linguists believed that language is something children only learn through habit and practice. But Chomsky believed that language was instinctive in human beings, and in his book Syntactic Structures (1957), he developed a way of describing grammatical elements of all languages to show that there is a universal grammar innate to the human brain. His ideas revolutionized the field, making him the foremost linguist in the world.

But today, he's better known for his radical political ideas. He first got involved in politics during the Vietnam War, helping to organize the protest march on the Pentagon that Norman Mailer wrote about in his book Armies of the Night. Chomsky and Mailer ended up sharing a jail cell after the march, and Mailer described him as "a slim, sharp-featured man with an ascetic expression and an air of gentle but absolute moral integrity."

He still writes about linguistics, but he's also written books about American foreign policy, including Manufacturing Consent (1986) and Deterring Democracy (1991).


It's the birthday of the novelist Willa Cather, (books by this author)born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia (1873). Her family moved west when she was a little girl, to get away from a tuberculosis epidemic that had killed all of her father's brothers. Cather always remembered the journey out to the plains, sitting on the hay in the bottom of a Studebaker wagon, holding on to the side to steady herself. She said, "As we drove further and further out into the country, I felt a good deal as if we had come to the end of everything — it was a kind of erasure of personality. I would not know how much a child's life is bound up in the woods and hills and meadows around it, if I had not been thrown out into a country as bare as a piece of sheet iron." Her family settled in Red Cloud, Nebraska, and she fell in love with the Nebraska landscape. She wrote, "Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth is the floor of the sky."

She went on to write a series of novels about the pioneer life of her childhood, including O Pioneers! (1913), My Ántonia (1918), The Professor's House (1925), and Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927). Willa Cather said, "I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do."


It was on this day in 1941 that Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. That morning soldiers at Pearl Harbor were learning how to use their new radar technology, and they detected a large number of planes heading toward them. They telephoned an officer to ask him what to do. The officer said they must be American B-17s on their way to the base, and he told the soldiers not to worry about it.

The Japanese bombers began their attack at 7:48 a.m., with two waves of 360 planes, beginning with slow torpedo bombers and then dive-bombers. Many of the soldiers there that day woke up to the sound of alarms and explosions. Most of the damage occurred in the first 30 minutes. The U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized, and the California, Nevada, and West Virginia sank in shallow water. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed, killing more than 1,500 soldiers aboard. When nurses arrived for morning duty they found hundreds of injured men all over the base. The nurses ran around, administering morphine, and to prevent overdoses, they wrote the letter M on each treated man's forehead.

There were ultimately 2,390 Americans killed at Pearl Harbor and 1,178 wounded. FDR used the event as the grounds for entering World War II.

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