Dec. 28, 2007
What My Father Believed
Poem: "What My Father Believed" by John Guzlowski, from Lightning And Ashes. © Steel Toe Books, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
What My Father Believed
He didn't know about the Rock of Ages
or bringing in the sheaves or Jacob's ladder
or gathering at the beautiful river
that flows beneath the throne of God.
He'd never heard of the Baltimore Catechism
either, and didn't know the purpose of life
was to love and honor and serve God.
He'd been to the village church as a boy
in Poland, and knew he was Catholic
because his mother and father were buried
in a cemetery under wooden crosses.
His sister Catherine was buried there too.
The day their mother died Catherine took
to the kitchen corner where the stove sat,
and cried. She wouldn't eat or drink, just cried
until she died there, died of a broken heart.
She was three or four years old, he was five.
What he knew about the nature of God
and religion came from the sermons
the priests told at mass, and this got mixed up
with his own life. He knew living was hard,
and that even children are meant to suffer.
Sometimes, when he was drinking he'd ask,
"Didn't God send his own son here to suffer?"
My father believed we are here to lift logs
that can't be lifted, to hammer steel nails
so bent they crack when we hit them.
In the slave labor camps in Germany,
He'd seen men try the impossible and fail.
He believed life is hard, and we should
help each other. If you see someone
on a cross, his weight pulling him down
and breaking his muscles, you should try
to lift him, even if only for a minute,
even though you know lifting won't save him.
Literary and Historical Notes:
Today in 1973, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's (books by this author) mammoth 260,000-word history of the Soviet prison camp system, The Gulag Archipelago, was published in Paris, France. The book is based on Solzhenitsyn's experiences in the camps for eight years, as well as 227 other inmates he interviewed. When the book was released in the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was arrested and exiled, but he was also finally able to go to Sweden and collect the Nobel Prize in literature he had been awarded in 1970.
On this day in 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumiere demonstrated the first movie projector, the cinematographe, in Paris, France. It projected its images out onto a screen, unlike Thomas Edison's kinetograph, which was a peep show that the viewer looked into, and it weighed only 20 pounds compared to Edison's half-ton invention. The first film they showed was "Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory." The movie opened with a concierge unlocking the gates, showed people walking through, and ended with the concierge closing the gates again. They made more than 2,000 films like this, without plots or characters, and thought of them just as moving pictures, and despite the thousands of people who lined up at their viewings every night, the Lumieres thought that movies would be a passing fad and Auguste went off to school to become a medical scientist, and Louis went back to working on still photographs.
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