Mar. 16, 2009

Cold Poem

by Jim Harrison

A cold has put me on the fritz, said Eugene O'Neill,
how can I forget certain things?
Now I have thirteen bottles of red wine
where once I had over a thousand.
I know where they went but why should I tell?
Every day I feed the dogs and birds.
The yard is littered with bones and seed husks.
Hearts spend their entire lives in the dark,
but the dogs and birds are fond of me.
I take a shower frequently but still
women are not drawn to me in large numbers.
Perhaps they know I'm happily married
and why exhaust themselves vainly to seduce me?
I loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars
and was paid back only by two Indians.
If I had known history it was never otherwise.
This is the song of the cold when people
are themselves but less so, people
who haven't listened to my unworded advice.
I was once described as "immortal"
but this didn't include my mother who recently died.
And why go to New York after the asteroid
and the floods of polar waters, the crumbling
buildings, when you're the only one there
in 2050? Come back to earth.
Blow your nose and dwell on the shortness of life.
Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about
how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost
imperceptible breeze.

"Cold Poem" by Jim Harrison from Saving Daylight. © Copper Canyon Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet César Vallejo, (books by this author) born in Santiago de Chuco, Peru (1892).

It's the birthday of novelist Alice Hoffman, (books by this author) born in New York City (1952). She was raised by her single, working mother on Long Island. She loved reading Grimm's fairy tales and Ray Bradbury novels, and watching fantasy movies. She started writing stories, dividing them into two categories: fantasy and realism. Then she read One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez, and she realized you could "take everyday realities and transform them into something fabulous." She said that One Hundred Years of Solitude changed everything for her.

She published a short story in the magazine Fiction. The editor of the magazine asked her if she had written a novel; she lied and said she had, and she immediately started writing the book that would become Property Of (1977). She has written many novels since then, including At Risk (1988) and Practical Magic (1995).

It's the birthday of Russian writer Maxim Gorky, (books by this author) born Alexi Maximovich Peshkov in 1868 in Nizhny Novgorod, a city now named Gorky after him. He is considered Russia's first "proletarian writer," and he was friends with Lenin and Stalin.

He had a miserable childhood, and worked manual labor jobs when he was a teenager. He published his first short story at the age of 23 and signed it "Maxim Gorky," or "Maxim the Bitter." He was sympathetic to the plight of peasants and supported an uprising, but he believed in anarchy more than he believed in rule by the people. He was imprisoned on various occasions by Czarist authorities, and he went into self-imposed exile. He wrote his first novel, Comrades (1907), in the United States, and he lectured across Europe and America. He lived for awhile in Capri, an island off the coast of Italy, and there he wrote many of his best-known works, including A Confession (1908) and a trilogy of memoirs about his unhappy childhood, beginning with My Childhood (1913).

He went back to Russia in 1913. He was a pacifist, and he opposed Russia's involvement during World War I. He also opposed the Russian Revolution of 1917, and he criticized the Bolsheviks in his writing. He and Lenin were close friends, but Lenin told Gorky to go live abroad, so Gorky spent most of the 1920s in Italy. He came back to Russia when Stalin was in power to lead the first "All-Soviet Congress of Writers." He stayed silent and went along with Stalin, and was rewarded with a comfortable life for five years. But he died in 1936 under mysterious circumstances; many scholars believe that Stalin ordered him to be poisoned.

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




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