Mar. 3, 2009

Late Winter Rains

by Amber Coverdale Sumrall

When the rains finally start they do not stop.
The mockingbirds sing all day as if someone
were feeding quarters into slots on their bodies.
Hyacinths bloom in violet glass along the windowledge,
the long white strands of their roots suspended in water.
One by one they open, filling the room with sweetness.
The silent crow who has perched on your shoulder
flies off like a spell in reverse.

Last winter, wrapped in red velvet curtains,
we leaned out the window
of your ninth-story Manhattan apartment
to catch the swirling snowflakes on our tongues.
It seemed so effortless, the falling.
Snow turned to sleet and then to rain.
We moved from window to bed to tub
leaving wet trails across the hardwood floor.
When you touched me, always it was the first time.

The kitchen window fogs with steam,
damp heat of kisses. Outside, a crow calls once
in the grey light then is gone. I remember our beginning,
a time before dark wings began beating in your blood.
How I believed there was nothing our love couldn't heal.
How after the sky cleared we walked through Riverside Park
startled to see lavender and mauve iris
flowering in the wake of so much cold,
their swollen centers like hearts turned inside out.

"Late Winter Rains" by Amber Coverdale Sumrall, from Litany of Wings. © Many Names Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this day in 1802, Ludwig van Beethoven published the "Moonlight" Sonata. Its official title is Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2. He was never happy about the sonata's popularity. He said, "Surely I've written better things."

On this day in 1873, Congress enacted the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" materials (including books) through the U.S. mail system. It was under the Comstock Law that James Joyce's Ulysses was barred from the mail until the court finally determined that it was not obscene.

It's the birthday of Irish novelist Aidan Higgins, (books by this author) born in Country Kildare (1927). He's best known for his first novel, Langrishe, Go Down (1966). It's set in the years around World War II, and it's the story of four Irish spinster sisters and the love affair between the youngest sister and a German student. The BBC adapted the novel into a film starring Jeremy Irons and Judi Dench.

His novel Balcony of Europe (1972) was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

It's the birthday of the poet James Merrill, (books by this author) born in New York City (1926). His father was the founder of Merrill Lynch. At age eight, James was already writing a poem a day. He had a large trust fund, so he never had to worry about a job. He had time to write, and he traveled widely. He used a Ouija Board to write his book-length poem Divine Comedies (1976), which won the Pulitzer Prize.

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