Nov. 12, 2009

My Father's Football Game

by David Wagoner

He watched each TV game for all he was worth, while swaying
Off guard or around end, his jaw
Off-center. He made each tackle
Personally, took it personally if the runner broke through
To a broken field. He wanted that hotshot
Down, up and around and down
Hard, on the ground, now, no matter which team was which.

Star backs got all the cheers. Their names came rumbling, roaring
Out of grandstands from the loud mouths
Of their fathers. He'd show them
How it felt out cold for a loss, to be speared, the pigskin
Fumbled and turned over. Man
To man he would smile then
For the linemen, his team, the scoreless iron men getting even.

But if those flashy legs went flickering out of the clutches
Of the last tackler into the open
Past anyone's goal line, he would stand
For a moment of silence, bent, then take his bitter cup
To the kitchen, knowing time
Had been called for something sweeter
Than any victory: he would settle down to his dream game

Against Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians for Washington
& Jefferson, buddy, that Great Year
By George Nineteen Sixteen
In mud, sweat, and sleet, in padding thinner than chain mail,
With immortal guts and helmets
Flying, the Savages versus the Heroes
By failing light in a Götterdämmerung, Nothing to Nothing.

"My Father's Football Game" by David Wagoner, from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of writer Tracy Kidder, (books by this author) born in New York in 1945. He served as a lieutenant in the Vietnam War, and when he came home, all he wanted to do was write. So he started writing nonfiction, and he's the author of The Soul of a New Machine (1981), Mountains Beyond Mountains (2003), and many more books. His most recent is Strength in What Remains, which came out earlier this year, the story of Deo, a young Tutsi medical student who survived the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda and moved to New York.

He said, "You can write about anything, and if you write well enough, even the reader with no intrinsic interest in the subject will become involved."

It's the birthday of novelist Katharine Weber, (books by this author) born in New York City in 1955. Her novels include Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (1995), The Little Women (2003), a retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic story, and Triangle (2006), about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. She decided to write about the fire because her grandmother worked at the factory, although she left her job two years before the fire because she was pregnant with Katharine Weber's father.

Next month, Weber is publishing her fifth novel, True Confections, about a fourth-generation family chocolate business.

It was on this day in 1954 that Ellis Island officially closed. More than 12 million immigrants had passed through the island since it opened in 1892. Today, about 40 percent of Americans can trace their roots back to Ellis Island.

It's the birthday of fantasy writer Michael Ende, (books by this author) born on this day in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in 1929. He started writing poems and stories when he was a teenager, and went on to write poetry and theater reviews. Then he read Bertolt Brecht's theories about writing, and he had a huge crisis and decided he couldn't be a writer.

But he got asked by an artist friend to write the text for a children's book, and so he agreed to that one last piece of writing, and it turned into a full-length children's fantasy novel, Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (1960), or Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. It was a big success; it won awards and was adapted for radio and TV. Next, he published Momo (1973), and then his most famous book, The Neverending Story (1979).

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




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