Jan. 26, 2009


by Kate Scott

Sam was a galunky kind of guy,
my cousin says. He walked like this.
He takes on a bow-legged swagger
that makes us laugh. And boy,
could he drink beer.
He lifts his hand,
tipping imaginary cans in quick succession.
He talked real fast too. Back then we laughed,
asked what was the rush? Never slowed him any.
Girls loved him. He was such a big guy,
think they figured he must have a big heart.

My cousin slows a little in his walk,
tugs on his ear to remember more.

We hung out a lot and unless he was excited,
talking fast, he was real quiet, would just sit,
stare out to space like he was someplace else.
Maybe he was thinking about the girl he loved
who died one winter, fell through the ice
as she was skating towards him.
She was only twenty feet away, her arms out wide.
They say he was there all night,
smashed the ice in a hundred places to find her.
They pulled her out in the Spring.
I think when he talked so fast
he was trying to forget,
like the words would fill up the space she left.

My cousin stops in the road,
brushes imaginary hair from his eyes.

I lost touch for some time, years went by.
I didn't hear from Sam, neither of us
were much use at letter writing.
Then one summer I came home to visit,
bumped right into him in a store downtown.
He talked real slow, like he was a clock
that had wound down. He said he'd taken up fishing.
He said he didn't much care for fish
but when he flung the line out hard,
heard the whir as it spun out over the water,
saw the river winking and glinting at him,
he felt he could catch anything.

"Fishing" by Kate Scott, from Stitches. © Peterloo Poets, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Jules Feiffer, (books by this author) born in the Bronx (1929). He said that when he was young, "the only thing I wanted to be was grown up. Because I was a terrible flop as a child. You cannot be a successful boy in America if you cannot throw or catch a ball." By the time he was a teenager, he wanted to be a comic-strip artist, so he got a job working for the cartoonist Will Eisner. Feiffer said the job was "ten dollars a week part time — erasing pages, filling in blanks, and dreaming great dreams."

He was drafted into the Army, and when he got back he wrote a cynical cartoon strip about a four-year-old who is drafted by mistake. No major newspapers would buy it. So he gave up and submitted the strip to a new weekly in his neighborhood called The Village Voice.

His strip in The Village Voice was one of the first to deal with adult themes. His cartoons are collected in books such as Feiffer's Marriage Manual (1967) and Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency (1974).

It's the birthday of playwright Christopher Hampton, (books by this author) born on Fayal Island in the Azores (1946). He wrote a play and then a screenplay based on Les liaisons dangereuses, an 18th-century French epistolary novel — a novel composed entirely of letters between the various characters. Dangerous Liaisons was made into a movie in 1988. In 2007, Hampton adapted Ian McEwan's novel Atonement into a screenplay.

He said, "No human being who devotes his life and energy to the manufacture of fantasies can be anything but fundamentally inadequate."

It was on this day in 1907 that J.M. Synge's play Playboy of the Western World had its premiere in Dublin. The play is about a young man, Christy Mahon, who comes into a pub in County Mayo bragging that he has just killed his father by clubbing him with a potato spade.

The audience was not happy with the insults to Ireland and the theme of patricide. But what finally set off a riot was the word shift — an Irish term for a female undergarment. Christy Mahon tells the pub owner's daughter that he would choose to love her even if he were "brought a drift of chosen females, standing in their shifts." The audience felt this was questioning the honor of Irish women, and it was the last straw. They began to riot.

The play continued with its scheduled performances, but by the end of the first week, 500 police officers had been enlisted to maintain order in and around the theater. William Butler Yeats, a friend of Synge, was called in to defend the play and calm the rioters.

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




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