Tuesday

Jun. 4, 2013

The Day Goes On Forever

by Tom Clark

We're alone my shadow and me
You're alone with your shadow too
The first day and the last day the same
First song same as last song

The stream weeps passing under concrete
Habitual deer have retreated
The earth is covered with vehicles
Meant to secure the unknown against us

The caged bird said this place is very pretty
Excellent for lunch fine for sleeping
But if I might ask one thing more
How come nobody thought to put in a door

"The Day Goes On Forever" by Tom Clark, from Light and Shade. © Coffee House Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this date in 1896, a young electrical engineer named Henry Ford completed, and successfully tested, his first experimental automobile. He called it the "Quadricycle" because it rolled around on four bicycle tires. He worked on it for two years, out in the shed behind his house on Bagley Avenue in Detroit. It was finally ready to test when he hit an unexpected snag: It was too wide to fit through the workshop's door. Ford took an ax to the doorframe, and he was soon rolling down Grand River Avenue.

The Quadricycle had a two-cylinder, four-horsepower engine and could achieve speeds up to 20 miles per hour. It had two gears and no brakes. It ran on pure ethanol, and it was steered by the means of a tiller, like a boat. It wasn't much to look at, just a 500-pound skeleton with a steel frame and no body. The first test drive was a success.

On this day in 1940, Carson McCullers' (books by this author) novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter first appeared. She was twenty-three, and the only thing she had published before was a short story. The novel, about a group of outcasts all drawn to the same deaf man, was a huge success.

On this date in 1919, the 19th Amendment passed the Senate. Fifteen months later, it was ratified by the necessary 36 state legislatures, giving American women the right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony drafted the original amendment, with the help of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and it was first formally introduced in 1878. It sat in committee for nine years before it went before the Senate in 1887 and was voted down. Over the next decades, several individual states approved women's voting rights, but a Constitutional amendment wasn't considered again until 1914. It was repeatedly defeated, and an anti-suffrage movement campaigned against it, claiming that it was unfeminine for women to venture outside their natural domestic sphere.

But in 1918, Woodrow Wilson threw his support behind the suffrage movement. Women had entered the workforce in large numbers during World War I, and in a speech that President Wilson gave in September 1918, he said: "We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of right?" The amendment passed both houses of Congress the following May.

It was on this day in 1989 that the Chinese government cracked down on students conducting pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The demonstrations had begun months earlier, after the government accused them of planning a coup d'état. They drew thousands of supporters from three dozen universities and staged hunger strikes and sit-ins. The Chinese government declared martial law, and troops approached the square with tanks in the late evening of June 3.

Ordinary workers had been demonstrating in support of the students for weeks, and they crowded into the streets to block the advance of the tanks toward the square. Violence broke out around midnight on this day in 1989, with some people throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the troops, and the troops responding with gunfire.

Soldiers surrounded the perimeter of the square, and the students expected that they would kill everyone at the center. Around 4:00 a.m., all the lights went out, and it got quiet. The students debated whether or not they should surrender. They heard the engines of the tanks start up, and finally they made the decision to evacuate. Almost all the students survived.

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 »