Friday

Apr. 6, 2012

After a Month of Rain

by Linda Pastan

Everything I thought I wanted
is right here,
particularly when the sun
is making such a comeback,

and the lilac engorged
with purple has recovered
from its severe pruning,
and you will be back soon

to dispel whatever it is
that overtakes me like leaf blight,
even on a day like this. I can still
hear remnants of the rain

in the swollen stream
behind the house, in the faint
dripping under the eaves,
persistent as memory.

And all the things I didn't think
I wanted, cut like the lilac back
to the root, push up again
from underground.

"After a Month of Rain" by Linda Pastan, from Traveling Light. © W.W. Norton & Co., 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Oscar Wilde (books by this author) was arrested for indecent acts on this date in 1895. He had been having an affair with the son of John Douglas, the Marquess of Queensberry. The Marquess had a warrant sworn out for Wilde's arrest. Wilde's friends implored him to escape to France, but Wilde said, "The train has gone. It's too late." He was arrested at the Cadogan Hotel, and, after a lengthy trial, was sentenced to two years' hard labor. During his imprisonment, he wrote a long letter to his former lover, Alfred Douglas, which was later published as De Profundis (1895). In it, he wrote: "When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?"

Upon his release — bankrupt and in ill health — he moved to Paris, where he died in poverty three years later.

The United States entered World War I on this date in 1917. The war had been going on in Europe for three years when Germany started attacking American merchant ships. President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war on April 2, and it passed almost unanimously. Factories sprang up to make the goods for the war effort, people moved to the cities from rural areas to take jobs in the factories, and women went to work in record numbers, helping to advance the women's suffrage movement.

World War I spawned the disillusioned realists of the "Lost Generation": Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Dos Passos, and Faulkner.

It's the birthday of the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, born in Idaho (sometime around 1789). She was kidnapped at age 10 by the Hidatsa tribe, sold into slavery, and bought by a French-Canadian trapper who made her one of his two wives. When Lewis and Clark hired the trapper to guide them to the Pacific, Sacajawea — a teenager with her two-month-old baby on her back — was part of the package. She accompanied the party to the Pacific Ocean and back, acting as their interpreter. She could speak half a dozen Indian languages, she told them which plants were edible, and, William Clark said, tribes were inclined to believe that their party was friendly when they saw Sacajawea because a war party would never travel with a woman, especially one with a baby.

When the trip was over, Sacajawea's husband got $500 and 320 acres of land. She died on December 1812, of a "fever," at the age of 23. Clark legally adopted her two children — the boy who had been a baby on the expedition, Jean Baptiste, and an infant daughter, Lisette.

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

 









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