Tuesday

Nov. 11, 2008

Amphibious

by Erin Murphy

My daughter wants to take
a framed oil painting to school,

a nude with loose breasts and a belly
ripe as the full moon. Why? Because

we're studying frogs, she says,
and it's a frog. I cock my head

to consider the angle of the draped arm
but can't get past the female form.

My daughter, though, is swimming
in amphibians, bringing home

scribbled pictures of tadpoles sprouting
splayed feet. At night, she sleeps

in the bedroom I painted pink,
her shelves lined with confectionary

teapots and cups. By day, she wants
to be her brother when she grows up.

Lately, she's morphed into
a creature who'd rather squirm free

than be held. O, how we see what we
want to see. My daughter, looking at

a nude, sees a frog for show-n-tell.
I look at her and see myself.

"Amphibious" by Erin Murphy, from Dislocation and Other Theories. © Word Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Abigail Adams, (books by this author) the wife of the second U.S. president and mother of the sixth, born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1744. She was a frail and sickly child, raised by her well-educated grandmother. Early on, separated from her friends and family, she developed her habit of writing letters, a habit for which she later became well-known.

She opposed slavery. She also strongly advocated women's rights, especially in the areas of education and property ownership. She expressed these views freely in letters she wrote to her husband. She and John Adams had a close and happy marriage, though they often had to endure long periods of separation. She wrote long, lively, loving, witty letters to him whenever they were apart.

John Adams was the second president, and she was the first first lady to occupy the White House — and she wasn't very impressed with the place, parts of which were still being constructed while they lived there. At the time, Washington, D.C., was a rural area, and she missed the city life of Philadelphia and New York, where they'd previously lived. She said, "I begin to think, that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Every object is beautiful in motion; a ship under sail, trees gently agitated with the wind, and a fine woman dancing, are three instances in point. Man was made for action and for bustle."

It's the birthday of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (books by this author) born in Moscow (1821). He had just graduated from engineering school when he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk (1846). When he finished the novel, he gave it to some friends, and they stayed up all night reading it. At 4:00 in the morning, they pounded on Dostoyevsky's door to wake him up and tell him that he'd written a masterpiece. He later said that was the happiest moment of his life. He went on to write The Gambler (1866), Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868), The Possessed (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880).

It's the birthday of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., (books by this author) born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1922). He joined the Army, and in December of 1944, he was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was imprisoned in a slaughterhouse in Dresden. On the night of February 13, 1945, British and American bombers attacked Dresden, igniting a firestorm that killed almost all the city's inhabitants in two hours. Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners only survived because they slept in a meat locker three stories below the ground. In 1967, he published Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

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

 









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