Apr. 26, 2009


by Edward Hirsch

It's that vague feeling of panic
That sweeps over you
Stepping out of the #7 train
At dusk, thinking, This isn't me
Crossing a platform with the other
Commuters in the worried half-light
Of evening, that must be

Someone else with a newspaper
Rolled tightly under his arm
Crossing the stiff, iron tracks
Behind the train, thinking, This
Can't be me
stepping over the tracks
With the other commuters, slowly crossing
The parking lot at the deepest
Moment of the day, wishing

That I were someone else, wishing
I were anyone else but a man
Looking out at himself as if
From a great distance,
Turning the key in his car, starting
His car and swinging it out of the lot,

Watching himself grinding uphill
In a slow fog, climbing past the other
Cars parked on the side of the road,
The cars which seem ominously empty
And strange,
          and suddenly thinking
With a new wave of nausea
This isn't me sitting in this car
Feeling as if I were about to drown

In the blue air, that must be
Someone else driving home to his

Wife and children on an ordinary day
Which ends, like other days,
With a man buckled into a steel box,
Steering himself home and trying
Not to panic

In the last moments of nightfall
When the trees and the red-brick houses
Seem to float under green water
And the streets fill up with sea lights.

"Commuters" by Edward Hirsch, from Wild Gratitude. © Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Bernard Malamud, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn in 1914. He's the author of The Natural (1952), The Assistant (1957), The Fixer (1966), and many more books. Straight out of graduate school, he got a job as a clerk for the United States Census Bureau. The job was unsupervised and required little actual work, so he spent most of his day crouched over his desk writing short stories on company time.

He said, "I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times — once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say."

It's the birthday of John James Audubon, (books by this author) born in 1785 in what is now Haiti. He was born out of wedlock, the son of a wealthy French naval officer and plantation owner, and his mistress. He was raised in France by his stepmother, and then at age 18, he left for America. He started studying birds intently, painting them and categorizing them. He was the first person in North America to band birds. He took little pieces of colored yarn and tied them around the legs of eastern phoebes, and so he was able to determine that the birds came back to the exact same nesting places each year.

Then, between 1826 and 1838, he published his Birds of America. It contained 435 life-sized paintings of all known bird species in America at the time.

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




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