Saturday

Dec. 6, 2008

My Father's Diary

by Sharon Olds

When I sit on the bed, and spring the brass
scarab legs of its locks, inside
is the stacked, shy wealth of his print.
He could not write in script, so the pages
are sturdy with the beamwork of printedness,
WENT TO LOOK AT A CAR, DAD IN A
GOOD MOOD AT DINNER, LUNCH WITH MOM,
TRIED OUT SOME RACQUETS—a life of ease,
except when he spun his father's DeSoto on the
ice, and a young tree whirled up
to the hood, throwing up her arms—until
LOIS. PLAYED TENNIS WITH LOIS, LUNCH
WITH MOM AND LOIS, DRIVING WITH LOIS,
LONG DRIVE WITH LOIS. And then,
LOIS! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! SHE IS SO
GOOD, SO SWEET, SO GENEROUS, I HAVE
NEVER, WHAT HAVE I EVER DONE
TO DESERVE SUCH A GIRL? Between the tines
of his W's, and liquid on the serifs, moonlight,
the self of the grown boy pouring
out, kneeling in pine-needle weave,
worshiping her. It was my father
good, it was my father grateful,
it was my father dead, who had left me
these small structures of his young brain—
he wanted me to know him, he wanted
someone to know him.

"My Father's Diary" by Sharon Olds, from Blood, Tin, Straw. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is St. Nicholas' Day. On the evening of December 5th in Germany and other European countries, children polish their shoes, then put the shoes outside the house in front of the door. During the night, St. Nicholas fills the shoes with small presents like sweets, oranges, and nuts. And this morning, December 6th, children rush outside to see what Nicholas has left them.

It was on this day in 1877 that Thomas Alva Edison recited "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into his new phonograph device. It was the world's first recording of the human voice. Edison had invented a method to inscribe telegraph messages through indentations on paper tape, and then store them to send later. So he wondered if the same could be done for sound. He figured that he could use a metal cylinder wrapped in tin foil, and when he spoke into a mouthpiece, the sound vibrations would be indented onto the cylinder in a specific pattern by a recording needle.

So he made a sketch, and gave it to John Kruesi, a Swiss machinist who worked with him. In less than a week, Kruesi presented Edison with a model. Edison wrapped the cylinder in tinfoil, turned the handle, and shouted a verse of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into the mouthpiece. To everyone's shock, the machine repeated it back. When Kruesi heard the recorded words, he exclaimed, "Gott in Himmel!" which means, "God in heaven."

It was on this day in 1768 that the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica was published. It's the oldest English-language encyclopedia still in print.

It's the birthday of the poet Joyce Kilmer, (books by this author) born in New Brunswick, New Jersey (1886). He wrote, "I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree."

It's the birthday of lyricist Ira Gershwin, born Israel Gershvin on the East Side of New York City (1896). He wrote lyrics to "I've Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," and "Someone to Watch Over Me."

He wrote, "You like potato and I like potahto … Let's call the whole thing off!"

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

 









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