May 17, 2009

Men Throwing Bricks

by Michael Chitwood

The one on the ground lofts two at a time
with just the right lift for them to finish
their rise as the one on the scaffold turns
to accept them like a gift and place them
on the growing stack. They chime slightly
on the catch. You'd have to do this daily,
morning and afternoon, not to marvel.

"Men Throwing Bricks" by Michael Chitwood, from From Whence. © Louisiana State University Press, 2007 (buy now)

It's the birthday of Mexican writer and diplomat Alfonso Reyes, (books by this author) born in Monterrey, Mexico (1889). When he was 21, he published a very successful book of essays, Cuestiones estéticas. And when he was 22, he wrote a short story called "La Cena" ("The Supper"), which was one of the first pieces to be classified as Latin American magical realism — the genre that's now used to describe work by authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende.

The year after he wrote that story, his father, a governor, was assassinated. Reyes graduated from law school and got a job with Mexico's foreign service. He was posted to France and then spent a decade in Spain, largely missing out on the violent Mexican Revolution at home. He served as ambassador to Argentina and Brazil, and returned to Mexico after he retired.

His complete works have been published in 26 volumes, and he has translated the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, G.K. Chesterton, Anton Chekhov, and Homer.

On this day in 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Brown vs. Board of Education. The unanimous ruling stated that racial segregation in public schools violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the law to all citizens.

It's the birthday of composer Erik Satie, born in a seaport town in northern France (1866). He's known for his eccentric piano pieces, with French titles that roughly translate into Flabby Preludes (for a Dog) (1912) and Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear (1903). His scores also contain instructions to the performers like "Light as an egg," "With astonishment," or "Work it out yourself."

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