Jun. 29, 2013
Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
in the moonlight, but I can't hear
anything, I can't see anything—
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker—
green gowns lifting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing—
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet—
all of it
beyond all seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.
On this day in 1613, the original Globe Theatre burned down. It was built by Shakespeare's acting company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, in 1599. It was a round, wooden building with thatched-roof balconies for the gentry. A cannon was fired during a performance of Henry VIII to mark the King's entrance, the thatched roof caught fire, and the whole theater was lost in an hour. It was rebuilt the next year, but taken down in 1644 to make space for tenements, after the Puritans closed all theaters. A replica, the new Globe Theatre, was built in the mid-1990s.
On this day in 1921, Edith Wharton (books by this author) became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize, for her novel The Age of Innocence. Sinclair Lewis's Main Street won the first vote, but it was considered too offensive by some prominent Midwesterners. Wharton lived in Paris during World War I, and she said, "I found a momentary escape in going back to my childish memories of a long-vanished America, and wrote The Age of Innocence."
It was on this day in 1956 that President Eisenhower signed the Federal Highway Act, which established the Interstate Highway System.
As a general during World War II, Eisenhower was impressed by Germany's autobahn system, and he decided that the United States needed something comparable. After the war, the economy was booming, and Eisenhower decided the time was right to push through the Interstate Highway System. It was the largest public works project in American history. It took longer than expected to build — 35 years instead of 12 — and it cost more than $100 billion, about three times the initial budget. But the first coast-to-coast interstate highway, I-80, was completed in 1986, running from New York City to San Francisco.
It was a great boon for hotel and fast-food chains, which sprung up by interstate exits. It was also a boon for suburban living, since commuting was faster and easier than before. But it was not necessarily good for American literature. When John Steinbeck took a cross-country trip with his dog and wrote Travels with Charley (1962), he only traveled on the interstate for one section, on I-90 between Erie, Pennsylvania, and Chicago, Illinois. He wrote: "These great roads are wonderful for moving goods but not for inspection of a countryside. You are bound to the wheel and your eyes to the car ahead and to the rear-view mirror for the car behind and [...] at the same time you must read all the signs for fear you may miss some instructions or orders. No roadside stands selling squash juice, no antique stores, [...] no farm products. When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®