Jun. 12, 2009

Fifties Music

by Leslie Monsour

While women sip their daiquiries by the pool,
and men blow smoke into the jacarandas,
the radio plays "Fly Me to the Moon."

A child nearby, on finding a dead bee,
conducts its funeral in petunia beds,
as ants are trying to amputate a wing.

But even thought the bee is dead, it stings
her fiercely on the palm, and dies again.
She studies her small hand in disbelief.

Some fathers offer ice cubes from their highballs,
the station plays "Volare," and the bee
swings up to heaven on its single wing.

"Fifties Music" by Leslie Monsour, from The Alarming Beauty of the Sky. © Red Hen Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Brigid Brophy, (books by this author) born in London (1929). When she was 24, she wrote Hackenfeller's Ape (1953), about a zoologist who becomes attached to the apes he is supposed to observe objectively. She wrote many more novels, including The King of a Rainy Country (1956) and Palace Without Chairs (1978). She campaigned for the rights of women, animals, and prisoners, even while she was sick in bed with multiple sclerosis at the end of her life. She said, "Whenever people say, 'We mustn't be sentimental,' you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, 'We must be realistic,' they mean they are going to make money out of it."

It's the birthday of the Johanna Spyri, (books by this author) born in the village of Hirzel, Switzerland, in the year 1827. She wrote many stories and novels for children, but she's best known as the author of Heidi. Heidi is a plucky young orphan who goes to live with her stern grandfather in the Alps, where she drinks goat milk and sleeps in a hayloft and becomes friends with the goatherd, Peter. Heidi is the most popular work of Swiss literature.

It's the birthday of Rona Jaffe, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York (1931). She worked for Cosmopolitan magazine, and then she started writing novels about single women in the working world, before that was a popular topic. She wrote many books, including The Best of Everything (1958), Mr. Right is Dead (1965), and The Road Taken (2000). In 1995, she created the Rona Jaffe Foundation, which gives annual prize money to support promising female writers. Some of the past winners include Aryn Kyle and ZZ Packer. Rona Jaffe wrote, "A blond in a red dress can do without introductions — but not without a bodyguard."

It's the birthday of Anne Frank, (books by this author) born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. It was on this day in 1942 that she received a red and white plaid journal, from her father, for her 13th birthday, and it became her diary. She called it "Kitty." A few weeks after her birthday, Anne's older sister, Margot, got a notice to report to a Jewish work camp, so the Franks went into hiding in an annex in Amsterdam, along with four other people. They lived together in the annex for two years, and a family friend, Miep Gies, brought them food and supplies. Anne wrote everything down in her diary. She wrote about fear and injustice and missing the sunshine. She also wrote about wanting privacy, getting mad at her mother, her crush on Peter, the teenage boy she lived with, and her jealousy of her sister.

In August of 1944, someone tipped off the Nazis, and they raided the apartment and sent everyone to concentration camps. A few hours later, Miep Gies found Anne's diary in the annex. Of the eight people who lived in the annex together, only Anne's father, Otto, survived. He returned to Amsterdam, and Miep gave him Anne's diary. It was published in Germany in 1947, and the United States in 1952. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has sold more than 25 million copies, and it is the second-best-selling nonfiction book in history, after the Bible.

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