Thursday

Aug. 20, 2009

Back Yard

by Elizabeth Spires

The Beautiful Lawn Sprinkler

by Howard Nemerov

Back Yard

It didn't rain.
And it didn't rain.
And it didn't rain
.
Returning, after a month away,
from a place up north.
we saw the parched and dying yard,
the hose coiled like a snake.

As if the present were past,
I walk from this thing to that,
touching dry leaves.
Here is my daughter's herb garden
where we buried the snail.
Here is the dogwood
that bloomed when T. was dying.
Here is the sunflower, ravaged by July,
and here is the rose of Sharon
coming, in August, into its own.
Here. Here. And here.
The arbor. The wisteria.
The bamboo, tenacious as ever.
The empty swing, motionless in the heat.
I unwind the coiled hose
and turn the water on,
watching it stream into the ground.
Everything is a mouth,
thirsty and unappeasable.

With each step, I move farther
into the future wondering,
How will I ever leave all this?
How? How does one ever leave?
I am the water-bearer.
I cannot die!

The Beautiful Lawn Sprinkler

What gives it power makes it change its mind
At each extreme, and lean its rising rain
Down low, first one and then the other way;
In which exchange humility and pride
Reverse, forgive, arise, and die again,
Wherefore it holds at both ends of the day
The rainbow in its scattering grains of spray.

"Back Yard" by Elizabeth Spires, from The Wave-Maker. © W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now) and "The Beautiful Lawn Sprinkler" by Howard Nemerov, from The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov. © Ohio University Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1977 that the Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched. Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, set out to explore the giant gaseous planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. They did that, and they are still in space, releasing new data constantly. Voyager 2's newest discovery concerns the bubble around our solar system where the solar wind (a thin gas of charged particles, which come from the sun) meets the space beyond our solar system. Voyager 2 has shown that that bubble is irregular, or squashed, not round.

Just in case the Voyagers make it into another solar system with alien life forms, each Voyager has a record that is three-quarters music and one-quarter greetings in 55 languages and various sounds from nature. The music includes Beethoven, Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, and traditional songs from all over the world.

It's the birthday of science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft, (books by this author) born in Providence, Rhode Island (1890). He had a nervous breakdown and never graduated from high school, and many people today have never heard of him, but he was famous in his day, and he went on to influence a whole generation of science fiction and horror writers, including Stephen King.

He is most famous for creating the Cthulhu Mythos, an alternate universe. It was taken up by other writers, and there are now thousands of stories written in the Cthulhu Mythos, although H.P. Lovecraft never expected anything of the sort — to him, it was only a setting for his fiction.

H.P. Lovecraft developed a philosophy called "cosmicism," which says, more or less, that there is no divine being, no divine purpose, and that the human race is totally insignificant in the larger scheme of things. There is only the great horror of the cosmos.

It's the birthday of Jacqueline Susann, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia in 1918. She was a party girl in high school, and even though she was smart and a good writer, she thought it would be easier to be an actress, so she went to New York instead of college. She wasn't much of an actress, but she did marry a press agent who got her spots in commercials, sitcoms, and plays.

In 1963, she published her first book, Every Night, Josephine!, about her experiences with her pet poodle, and then she published her huge best seller, Valley of the Dolls (1966), about sex, drugs, and life in show business. The book turned Jacqueline Susann into a celebrity author — she was one of the first novelists to really use publicity and marketing to her advantage. She and her husband, the press agent, promoted Valley of the Dolls through book tours and talk shows, and she made a point of signing every book in bookstores.

Valley of the Dolls begins: "The temperature hit ninety degrees the day she arrived. New York was steaming — an angry concrete animal caught unawares in an unseasonable hot spell. But she didn't mind the heat or the littered midway called Times Square. She thought New York was the most exciting city in the world."

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

 









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