Jul. 6, 2013


by Reed Whittemore

What I am telling you now
moves and must always be moving
                                                so that
if it is in the kitchen it must be drifting
out into the hall and up the long stair as
far perhaps as the attic where it must
float out toward the mountain where a fine lady
perhaps is waiting

Yes what I am telling you now is climbing the steep side
an hour perhaps will do it
to the top where the lady is waiting

For why would I tell you that which I tell you
were there not always this movement
drifting out from the attic unto the mountain
and up the steep side
were there not always this movement you would be bored
and drumming the kitchen table
because you are hearing this drifting you are now listening

"Narrative" by Reed Whittemore, from The Past, The Future, The Present. © The University of Arkansas Press, 1990. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1535 that Sir Thomas More was beheaded in the Tower of London for refusing to recognize his longtime friend King Henry VIII as the head of the Church. Thomas More was a barrister, a scholar, and a writer. He was the author of Utopia (1516), a controversial novel about an imaginary island, where society was based on equality for all people. It is from this novel that we get our word "utopia."

Sir Thomas More was a champion of King Henry VIII and helped him write rebuttals to Martin Luther's attacks on Henry. More presented sound theological arguments, and he also said things like, "Come, do not rage so violently, good father; but if you have raved wildly enough, listen now, you pimp." And (also about Luther): "If he proceeds to play the buffoon in the manner in which he has begun, and to rave madly, if he proceeds to rage with calumny, to mouth trifling nonsense, to act like a raging madman, to make sport with buffoonery, and to carry nothing in his mouth but bilge-water, sewers, privies, filth and dung, then let others do what they will ..."

Thomas More was a staunch Catholic, and so for a while, he and King Henry were both aligned against Protestantism, and Henry made More his Lord Chancellor. But then Henry decided to break with the Church and declare himself Supreme Head of the English Church, and More refused to sign an oath recognizing Henry above the rest of the Church. Finally, Henry had More beheaded.

It was on this day in 1957 that two teenagers named John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met at a church dance in Liverpool, England. Lennon was performing at the dance with his band and McCartney was in the audience. McCartney was impressed by John's singing, so he introduced himself after the performance. They didn't hit it off until Paul mentioned that he played guitar, and he knew how to tune one. John was even more impressed that Paul knew the lyrics of recent rock and roll songs. John could never remember lyrics, which was why he often made up new ones while he was singing. Paul volunteered to write out the lyrics for the song "Be Bop a Lula" for John, and the two became fast friends. By 1959, they were calling themselves The Beatles.

It's the birthday of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, born near Mexico City (1907). She contracted polio when she was six years old, which left her right leg deformed. And when she was 18, she was in a streetcar accident in which she was impaled by a steel bar. The accident broke her spine in three places, her leg in 11 places, and both her feet and her collarbone and pelvis were crushed. Doctors operated on her more than 30 times, but she eventually had to have one leg amputated and spent months at a time in bed. It was during these bed-ridden periods that she produced most of her paintings. She had few subjects to chose from, so most of the time she just set up a mirror and painted herself. She said, "I paint myself, because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best."

It's the birthday of the Dalai Lama born in Taktser, Tibet (1935). When the 13th Dalai Lama died in 1933, monks from the city of Lhasa set out to find a child who would prove to be the reincarnation of the Buddhist leader. They eventually found him in the village of Taktser, in a three-year-old boy named Lhamo, whom they took back to Lhasa and installed as the 14th Dalai Lama. Since 1960, the Dalai Lama has lived in India and worked to bring a nonviolent resolution to the conflict in Tibet. He received the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

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