Saturday

Mar. 3, 2012

Post Hoc

by Jennifer Maier

It happened because he looked a gift horse in the mouth.
It happened because he couldn't get that monkey off his back.
It happened because she didn't chew 22 times before swallowing.
What was she thinking, letting him walk home alone from the bus stop?
What was he thinking, standing up in the boat like that?
Once she signed those papers the die was cast.
She should have waited an hour before going in; everyone knows
salami and seawater don't mix.
He should have checked his parachute a seventh time;
you can never be too careful.
Why didn't she declare her true feelings?
Why didn't she play hard to get? She could be out at some
nice restaurant right now instead of in church, praying
for the strength to let him go.
It all started with that tattoo.
It all started with her decision to order the chicken salad.
Why was he so picky?
Why wasn't she more discriminating?
He should have read the writing on the wall; listened
to the still small voice, had a lick of sense. But how could he when he
was blinded by passion? Deaf to warnings? Really dumb?
Why, why, in God's name, did he run with scissors?
If only they'd asked Jesus for help.
If only they'd asked their friends for help.
If only they'd ignored the advice of others and held fast
to their own convictions, they might all be here, now,
with us, instead of six feet under; instead of trying to adopt
that foreign baby, instead of warming that barstool
at the Road Not Taken Eatery and Lounge, wondering how it might all
have been different, if only they had done
the right thing.

"Post Hoc" by Jennifer Maier, from Dark Alphabet. © Southern Illinois University Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata was published on this date in 1802. Its real name is the slightly less evocative "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, No. 2," and its Italian subtitle is translated as "almost a fantasy." In 1832, five years after Beethoven's death, a German critic compared the sonata to the effect of moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne, and the interpretation became so popular that, by the end of the century, the piece was universally known as the "Moonlight Sonata." Beethoven himself had attributed the emotion of the piece to sitting at the bedside of a friend who had suffered an untimely death.

It's the birthday of Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh in 1847. Most people know him as the inventor of the telephone, but that was really just an offshoot of his real life's work, which was coming up with ways to make life easier for the hearing impaired. He came from a family of experts in elocution and speech correction, and most of his education came from his parents, who intended that he continue the family business. The Bells moved to Canada in 1860, after their two other sons died of tuberculosis; their only remaining son began helping his father demonstrate his method of "visible speech," a way for the deaf to learn to form words in the same way that hearing people did.

Bell, with the assistance of a repair mechanic and model builder named Thomas Watson, began working on experiments to transmit sounds through the use of electricity. The telephone was one of the results of these experiments.

Time magazine was first published on this date in 1923. The first weekly news magazine in the United States, Time was founded by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, who had worked together on the Yale Daily News. With an initial subscribership of 9,000, Larsen built the magazine's circulation through advertising and short programs on the radio and in movie theaters.

It's the birthday of the host of "This American Life": Ira Glass (books by this author), born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1959. He got into radio, he says, "totally by accident." It was 1978, he was 19, had just finished his freshman year of college, and was looking for a summer job with an ad agency or a TV station. He managed to talk his way into an internship with NPR despite the fact he'd never listened to public radio. He started out as a tape cutter and as a desk assistant, graduated from Brown University, and continued working for public radio as newscast writer, editor, producer of All Things Considered, reporter, and substitute host. He moved to Chicago in 1989, and in 1995, he launched This American Life. The programs usually feature an in-depth look at the lives of ordinary people; sometimes the stories are sad, sometimes ironic, sometimes funny.

He's the editor of an anthology called The New Kings of Nonfiction (2007).

Today is the birthday of the poet James Merrill (1926) (books by this author), born in New York City. His father was the co-founder of Merrill Lynch. With an ample trust fund, James never had to worry about money, so he was free to devote himself to poetry. But even though he was wealthy himself, he was sensitive to the fact that most artists weren't, so he created the Ingram Merrill Foundation in 1956, with a permanent endowment for writers and painters. His several collections of poetry include The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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

 









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