Jul. 14, 2013
When the final piece is lifted and set in place,
completing the field, filling the hole
in a grove of trees, a jagged gap
in the ocean or the flat, black sky.
When the scene is whole before me:
tiny men, arms thin as wicks, walking
briskly along a gray rain-riven street,
the woman bent to her dog under an awning,
his wet head held up with trust,
one white paw in her hand, tip
of his tail I kept trying all day
to press into the starry night, ruffled
hem of her blown-up skirt
that never fit into the distant waves
breaking along the shore,
and the bridge, its rickrack of steel girders
I thought were train tracks or a fallen fence,
when it all, at last, makes sense, a vast
satisfaction fills me: the mossy boulders,
pleasing in their eternal random piles,
the river eased around them, green
with its fever to reach the sea,
a ragged bunch of flowers gathered
from the hills I've locked together,
edge to edge, and placed in a glittering vase
behind a window streaked with rain
which the child in his woolen cap
looks into: boxes of candy wrapped
and displayed, desire burning
in his belly, precursor to the fire
that could have broken his small heart
open like a coal someday
in his future, which for him
is nothing but this empty box
layered with a fine dust, the stuff
from which he was born and will
die into, carried, weightless,
to summer's open door
where I bang my hand against
the cardboard, watch the particles,
like chaff or ashes, vanish in wind.
Today is the birthday of Swedish director and writer Ingmar Bergman, born in Uppsala (1918). He studied theater in college, and made his way into the film business in 1941, rewriting screenplays. Over the next decade, he wrote and directed more than a dozen movies. His first big international success came in 1955, with Smiles of a Summer Night, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries followed in 1957.
Bergman became known for making films about mortality and isolation. In one interview, he admitted that he couldn't watch his films anymore because he found them depressing. He influenced an entire generation of young filmmakers. Woody Allen called Bergman "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera."
It was on this day in 1881 that Henry McCarty, better known as Billy the Kid, was shot dead at the age of 21 by Sheriff Pat Garrett of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Billy had escaped from the county jail and killed the two guards on duty. He headed for the home of his friend Pete Maxwell, but Garrett was waiting inside the door and shot him once above the heart.
The life and death of Billy the Kid inspired numerous books — the first of which was written by Sheriff Pat Garrett himself — as well as novels, poems, dozens of movies, and songs by artists like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Aaron Copland, and Marty Robbins.
Today is the birthday of Woodrow Wilson — aka "Woody" — Guthrie, born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1912). Woody Guthrie never finished high school, but he spent his spare time reading books at the local public library. He took occasional jobs as a sign painter and started playing music on a guitar he found in the street. During the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s, Guthrie followed workers who were moving to California. They taught him traditional folk and blues songs, and Guthrie went on to write thousands of his own, including "This Train is Bound for Glory." In 1940, he wrote the folk classic "This Land is Your Land" because he was growing sick of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®