Friday

Jan. 30, 2009

Letter Home

by Ellen Steinbaum

I love you forever
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package—soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her. Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me,
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket. He will sit
alone and listen to Aïda

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives. Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.

"Letter Home" by Ellen Steinbaum, from Container Gardening. © Custom Words, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Richard Gary Brautigan, (books by this author) born in Tacoma, Washington (1935). He moved to San Francisco, where he read his poetry at psychedelic rock concerts, helped produce underground newspapers, and became involved with the Beat Movement. He had long blond hair and granny glasses.

In the summer of 1961, he went camping with his wife and young daughter in Idaho's Stanley Basin. He spent his days hiking, and it was there, sitting next to trout streams with his portable typewriter, that he wrote his most famous work, Trout Fishing in America (1967).

It's the birthday of the novelist and short-story writer Shirley Hazzard, (books by this author) born in Sydney, Australia (1931). She's best known for her novel The Transit of Venus (1980), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

It is the birthday of historian Barbara Tuchman, (books by this author) born in New York City (1912). She wrote The Guns of August (1962), a study of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I.

She said, "War is the unfolding of miscalculations."

It was on this day in 1972 that British army parachutists shot 27 unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland — an event known as "Bloody Sunday." The protestors had been marching to oppose the new British policy of imprisoning people without a hearing.

The Northern Irish conflict stemmed from a peace treaty signed in 1923 after Ireland's successful war for independence from Britain. The treaty partitioned Ireland, designating the largely Catholic south as an independent nation, while leaving six counties of Northern Ireland, which had a Protestant majority, as part of the United Kingdom.

On this day, parachute troopers were given the okay to fire on the protestors. The first person killed was shot in the back. Thirteen people died — half of them were teenagers. All of the protesters were unarmed.

In 1983, U2 released the protest song "Sunday Bloody Sunday." Few people supported the quick investigation that the British conducted right after the event, so in 1998, Tony Blair began another investigation. The report is due to be released in late 2009.

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

 









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