Apr. 27, 2009


by Sharon Bryan

Middle age refers more
to landscape than to time:
it's as if you'd reached

the top of a hill
and could see all the way
to the end of your life,

so you know without a doubt
that it has an end—
not that it will have,

but that it does have,
if only in outline—
so for the first time

you can see your life whole,
beginning and end not far
from where you stand,

the horizon in the distance—
the view makes you weep,
but it also has the beauty

of symmetry, like the earth
seen from space: you can't help
but admire it from afar,

especially now, while it's simple
to re-enter whenever you choose,
lying down in your life,

waking up to it
just as you always have—
except that the details resonate

by virtue of being contained,
as your own words
coming back to you

define the landscape,
remind you that it won't go on
like this forever.

"Foreseeing" by Sharon Bryan, from Flying Blind. © Sarabande Books, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of poet Cecil Day Lewis, (books by this author) born in County Laois, Ireland (1904). He was in the small group of poets that hung out with W.H. Auden in Oxford, and he helped Auden to edit Oxford Poetry 1927. He worked as a teacher and wrote poetry. Then, in 1935, the roof of his cottage started leaking, and he needed more money to pay for the repair. So he quickly wrote a detective novel, A Question of Proof (1935). It sold so well that he was able to quit teaching and write full time.

He wrote 20 mystery novels in all, including Malice in Wonderland (1940), The Case of the Abominable Snowman (1941), A Penknife in My Heart (1958), and The Deadly Joker (1963). He filled his mysteries with literary allusions to Shakespeare, Keats, and A.E. Housman. Sixteen of his books featured the hero Nigel Strangeways, whom he modeled after W.H. Auden. Lewis described Strangeways: "Nigel's six feet sprawled all over the place; his gestures were nervous and a little uncouth; a lock of sandy coloured hair dropping over his forehead, and the deceptive naïveté of his face in repose gave him a resemblance to an overgrown prep. schoolboy."

He continued to write poetry and children's books, and he translated Latin classics like The Aeneid (1952).
He wrote:

To lift, to fetch, to drive, to shed, to pen,
Are acts I recognize, with all they mean
Of shepherding the unruly, for a kind of
Controlled woolgathering is my work too.

It's the birthday of playwright August Wilson, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). His plays include Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), Fences (1985), and The Piano Lesson (1990). He said, "Confront the dark parts of yourself. … Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing."

It's the birthday of Samuel F. B. Morse, born in Charlestown, Massachusetts (1791). He got the idea for an electromagnetic telegraph while on board a boat returning from Europe in 1832, and by 1835 he had a model telegraph working. He helped develop the first telegraph line in America, between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. He tapped out the first message on May 24, 1844. It was a biblical quotation: "What Hath God Wrought?"

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




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