Apr. 6, 2009

Honey, Can You Hear Me

by James Tate

            Alison stared into the mirror and combed her hair. How
beautiful she was! "I look awful," she said. I bent down and
tied my shoe and hit my head on the coffee table on the way up.
"Ouch," I said. "What did you say, honey?" she said. "I said
we ought to buy a new couch," I said. "I thought we just bought
one," she said. "We could buy another one so we'd have a backup
in case anything happens to this one," I said. She didn't answer
me, but continued to brush her hair. I stared down at my shoes
and said, "Something is so wrong there." "What did you say, honey?"
she said. I said, "It will be wonderful to be there tonight."
"Where's that, honey?" she said. "Wherever it is that we're going,"
I said. "We're not going anywhere," she said. "I meant here. It
will be wonderful to be here tonight," I said. "A little romantic
night at home," she said. What did she mean by "nomadic"? A little
nomadic night at home. There were times when I worried about
Alison. She hovered right on the borderline, about to cross over into
her own private realm, where nothing she sees or hears corresponds
to anything in the known world. I live with this fear daily. My
shoes are on the wrong feet, or so it seems to me now.

"Honey, Can You Hear Me" by James Tate, from The Ghost Soldiers. © Harper Collins, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, born in Idaho (1789), who served as interpreter for Lewis and Clark's expedition while she was a teenager with a two-month-old baby.

On this day in 1896, the first modern Olympic games opened in Athens. They were the first Olympics since 393 A.D. Fourteen nations sent 241 athletes. Last summer in Beijing, almost every nation in the world sent participants — about 11,000 athletes in total.

It's the 100th anniversary of the day that Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole, along with his assistant Matthew Henson and four Inuit guides. These days, there is a big debate as to whether Peary actually reached the pole, and if not, whether he thought he had.

On this day in 1327, the Italian poet Petrarch, (books by this author) saw the woman he called Laura for the first time, and he spent the next 50 years writing poems for her. He was living in Avignon, and he went to a Good Friday service in the church of Sainte Claire and saw a beautiful woman with long golden hair and dark eyes. He fell immediately in love. Laura was probably Laura de Noves, the wife of a nobleman named Hugues de Sade. She did not return Petrarch's love, but he never loved another woman and wrote all his sonnets for her. The sonnet form had been around since the 13th century, but it was Petrarch who made it famous. He wrote his sonnets with one section of eight lines and one section of six — a style we now call the "Petrarchan sonnet." He wrote 366 sonnets about Laura. He wrote, "It was on that day when the sun's ray/was darkened in pity for its Maker,/that I was captured, and did not defend myself,/because your lovely eyes had bound me, Lady."

It was on this day in 1895 that Oscar Wilde, (books by this author) was arrested on the charge of sodomy. He was sentenced to prison and two years' hard labor. Public opinion turned against Wilde, and his plays were cancelled. When he was released he went to Paris, where he lived at the Hôtel d'Alsace under a false name and died three years later, in 1900, of cerebral meningitis.

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