May 7, 2009

On a Perfect Day

by Jane Gentry

... I eat an artichoke in front
of the Charles Street Laundromat
and watch the clouds bloom
into white flowers out of
the building across the way.
The bright air moves on my face
like the touch of someone who loves me.
Far overhead a dart-shaped plane softens
through membranes of vacancy. A ship,
riding the bright glissade of the Hudson, slips
past the end of the street. Colette's vagabond
says the sun belongs to the lizard
that warms in its light. I own these moments
when my skin like a drumhead stretches on the frame
of my bones, then swells, a bellows filled
with sacred breath seared by this flame,
                                                        this happiness.

"On a Perfect Day" by Jane Gentry, from A Garden in Kentucky. © Louisiana State University Press, 1995. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Robert Browning, (books by this author) born in London, England (1812). He wrote:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made.

It's the birthday of a woman who — when she was only 28 — wrote a famous poem about growing old: Jenny Joseph, (books by this author) born in Birmingham, England (1932). She wrote:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
The poem, "Warning," was printed in anthologies and on T-shirts, magnets, and greeting cards. It was voted as Britain's favorite post-war poem, beating out Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night."

And it led to the creation of the Red Hat Society, groups of women over the age of 50 who get together for tea parties, wearing purple clothes and red hats. The groups spread quickly, and today there are more than 40,000 chapters.

On this day in 1847, the American Medical Association was founded in Philadelphia. It was started by a small group of physicians who realized that medicine might work better if doctors talked to each other and shared their practices.

It's the birthday of Eva Perón, born María Eva Duarte in Los Toldos, Argentina (1919). She grew up extremely poor and left home at age 15 for Buenos Aires, where she worked as a model and then became one of Argentina's most popular radio actresses. At a party in 1944, she met Juan Perón, who was the Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare. They were married the next year, and Eva became a powerful figure in the new administration. She worked for labor rights, she championed health care and women's suffrage, and she was so glamorous and gracious that she became an international celebrity. She died in 1952, at age 33, of cervical cancer.

But in 1976, she had her second life in Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical Evita,which was made into a film starring Madonna in 1996.

It's the birthday of Johannes Brahms, born in Hamburg, Germany (1833). He was one of the few composers whose work was recognized while he was still alive.

And it's the birthday of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, born seven years later in Votkinsk, Russia (1840). He wrote symphonies, operas, and three great ballets: Swan Lake (1876), The Nutcracker (1892), and The Sleeping Beauty (1889). Tchaikovsky was gay, which was officially illegal in Russia at the time. Under pressure, he married a young woman and was miserable. He had a mental breakdown, attempted suicide, and left the country. He said, "I sit down to work each morning at 9 a.m., and the muse has learnt to be on time."

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




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