Jul. 22, 2013

Another Beer

by William Matthews

The first one was for the clock
and its one song
which is the song's name.

Then a beer for the scars in the table,
all healed in the shape of initials.

Then a beer for the thirst
and its one song we keep forgetting.

And a beer for the hands
we are keeping to ourselves.
The body's dogs, they lie
by the ashtray and thump
suddenly in their sleep.

And a beer for our reticence,
the true tongue, the one song,
the fire made of air.

Then a beer for the juke box.
I wish it had the recording
of a Marcel Marceau mime performance:
28 minutes of silence,
2 of applause.

And a beer for the phone booth.
In this confessional you can sit.
You sing it your one song.

And let's have a beer for whoever goes home
and sprawls, like the remaining sock,
in the drawer of his bed and repeats
the funny joke and pulls it
shut and sleeps.

And a beer for anyone
who can't tell the difference between
death and a good cry
with its one song.
None of us will rest enough.

The last beer is always for the road.
The road is what the car drinks
traveling on its tongue of light
all the way home.

"Another Beer" by William Matthews, from Search Party. © Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of American author and columnist Amy Vanderbilt (books by this author), born in New York City in 1908, cousin of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railway magnate. She began in journalism at the age of 16 by writing society and feature articles for the Staten Island Advance. In 1952, she wrote the 700-page Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette. It sold millions of copies and established her as the foremost authority on the subject.

It is the birthday of the Moravian natural scientist and meteorologist Johann Gregor Mendel, born in Czechoslovakia in 1822. From 1856 to 1863, he performed experiments on 28,000 edible pea plants. From his observations, he developed his theory of inheritance, including the notion of recombination of genes, which became the basis of the modern science of genetics.

It's the birthday of the painter Edward Hopper, born in Nyack, New York (1882). By the time he was 12, he was already six feet tall. He was skinny, gangly, made fun of by his classmates, painfully shy, and spent much of his time alone drawing.

After he finished art school, he took a trip to Paris and spent almost all of his time there alone, reading or painting. In Paris, he realized that he had fallen in love with light. He said the light in Paris was unlike anything he'd ever seen before. He tried to re-create it in his paintings.

He came back to New York and was employed as an illustrator at an ad agency, which he loathed. In his spare time, he drove around and painted train stations and gas stations and corner saloons.

Hopper had only sold one painting by the time he was 40 years old, but his first major exhibition — in 1933 at the Museum of Modern Art — made him famous. His pieces in that show had titles like "Houses by the Railroad," "Manhattan Bridge Loop," "Room in Brooklyn," "Roofs of Washington Square," "Cold Storage Plant;" "Lonely House," and "Girl on Bridge." Though his work was more realistic and less experimental than most other painters at the time, he painted his scenes in a way that made them seem especially lonely and eerie.

Edward Hopper said, "Maybe I am slightly inhuman ... All I ever wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."

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




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