Jan. 21, 2009


by Debra Nystrom

     —for Brad

Fifteen below and wind at sixty,
no way to get the feeder to the cattle;
they'll have to tough it out or not
till the gusting dies down—
if they weren't the neighbor's herd left
in your care you'd forget them—
no, they'd be gone, sold for the pleading
or the settlement, like everything;
you think of cutting the motor off to sit
in the tractor cab awhile, radio songs slowly
fading out as they suck the battery dry,
white nonsense scattering at the windshield
like bits of wreckage hypnotizing
till some kind of sleep comes on—
no sleeping in the house, the bedroom closed,
the kids' rooms too, you only go
to the couch and listen to television voices
calling as if to a lifeboat they don't
know anything about; once in a while the
answering machine—not her, just
your mother or sister, worried, trying to
coax you to the phone, draw you out,
but you're too tired to tell them there's
nothing left here to worry about:
if the gusting doesn't die down soon
the cold will finish all of it.

"Snow" by Debra Nystrom, from Torn Sky. © Sarabande Books, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet Forrest Gander, (books by this author) born in Barstow, California (1956). He mostly grew up in Virginia, where his mom was an elementary school teacher. But he spent summers with his father, who ran a bar in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. It started out as a college bar and then became a gay bar.

He grew up along the Potomac River, fishing with his Swedish grandfather, who recited Edgar Allan Poe poems and prayers in Swedish while they fished for bluegills.

He majored in geology and English, and not long after he graduated from college he was diagnosed with cancer, third stage melanoma. After cancer treatment, he said, "A fevered seriousness visited upon me. I looked like a veteran of some awful conflict and I was ready to change my life."

He moved to San Francisco, where he met his partner in the poetry room of the San Francisco State Library. The two of them moved to Mexico, and Gander became fascinated with Mexican poetry and began to translate it. He's since published translations of Pablo Neruda and many other poets, as well as several collections of his own poetry, including Eggplants and Lotus Root (1991). Last year he published his first novel, As A Friend (2008).

He wrote, "I have lost the consolation of faith / though not the ambition to worship."

It's the birthday of the critic Louis Menand, (books by this author) born in Syracuse, New York (1952). He teaches at Harvard University, and he's a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. One of his most famous books is The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (2001), which describes the historical philosophy behind modern liberalism.

It was on this day in 1952 that William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross as the editor of The New Yorker magazine. Shawn published the work of J.D. Salinger, Truman Capote, Pauline Kael, and many others. He was known for his attention to detail — he once argued with a writer over a single hyphen until 2:30 a.m.

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




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