Dec. 18, 2009

Going to Bed

by George Bilgere

I check the locks on the front door
               and the side door,
make sure the windows are closed
               and the heat dialed down.
I switch off the computer,
               turn off the living room lights.

I let in the cats.

               Reverently, I unplug the Christmas tree,
leaving Christ and the little animals
               in the dark.

The last thing I do
               is step out to the back yard
for a quick look at the Milky Way.

               The stars are halogen-blue.
The constellations, whose names
               I have long since forgotten,
look down anonymously,
               and the whole galaxy
is cartwheeling in silence through the night.

               Everything seems to be ok.

"Going to Bed" by George Bilgere, from Haywire. © Utah State University Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is New Year's Day in the Islamic Calendar. The calendar is based on the movements of the moon — different from the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the movements of the sun.

Today is the first day of the year 1431 A.H. "A.H." means "anno hegirae" (Latin) or "in the year of the Hijra." The Hijra refers to the journey that the prophet Muhammad took from Mecca to Medina — cities in modern-day Saudi Arabia — after he learned that there was a plot to assassinate him in Mecca, and because he was invited to act as a mediator for the feuding tribes of Medina, then called Yathrib. Muhammad's journey took place in the year 622 A.D., a calendar based on the birth year of Jesus — who is also a respected prophet in Islam.

The Islamic calendar was created 1,414 lunar years ago (which is 1,371 years ago by the 2009 calendar's standards). And today — December 18, 2009 A.D. — is New Year's Day, 1431 A.H., in the Islamic calendar.

During festivals like today, Muslims greet each other with "Eid Mubarak," which means, "May the festival be blessed for you." Another common greeting on annual holidays is an expression that translates to "Every year may you be well."

There are a couple of holidays that are far more important to Muslims than the Islamic New Year. One is Eid al-Fitr, the Celebration of Breaking of a Fast. This holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims have refrained from eating or drinking during daylight hours. Eid al-Fitr lasts a few days, and is celebrated with prayers and joyful family gatherings and lots of big meals and words of congratulations. Kids sometimes get new clothes or a little bit of money.

The most important Islamic holiday of all is Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice. It coincides with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the "Hajj." Devout Muslims who are healthy and can afford to are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Once in Mecca (Saudi Arabia), the pilgrims gather around a Holy Shrine called the Kaabah, which is shaped like a box and is black in color. All pilgrims wear traditional white clothing, and the pilgrimage — undertaken by rich and poor Muslims of every race from around the world — is meant to serve as a reminder that they are equal before the eyes of God.

Islam is the world's second most widely practiced religion. There are Five Pillars of Islam: declaring that there is only one true God, praying five times a day, giving money to the poor, fasting during holy days, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

It's the birthday of playwright Christopher Fry, (books by this author) born in Bristol, England (1907). He's best known for The Lady's Not for Burning (1948), a play set in the Middle Ages. It's about an ex-soldier who wants to die and a young woman who is accused of being a witch.

It's the birthday of playwright Abe Burrows, (books by this author) born in New York City (1910). In 1950, he teamed up with composer Frank Loesser to help write the musical Guys and Dolls, which was a huge success. Burrows continued writing for Broadway, including Can-Can (1953), Silk Stockings (1955), and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961).

It's the birthday of the British writer known as Saki, (books by this author) born Hector Hugh Munro in Akyab, Burma (1870). He wrote short, whimsical stories about the British upper class, full of witty sayings and surprise twists. His first book under the pen name Saki was a satire of the British government, The Westminster Alice (1902). It was extremely popular, so he kept the pen name for his short stories. He worked as a journalist in London, Paris, and Russia. When World War I broke out in 1914, he enlisted in the army. He enjoyed being a soldier, and he formed a social club with other members of his regiment. In 1915, he sent his sister a Christmas card that said, "While the Shepherds watched their flocks by night / All seated on the ground / A high-explosive shell came down / And mutton rained around." He died from a bullet wound the next year.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »