Tuesday

Jan. 7, 2014

Crossword

by Sally Bliumis-Dunn

The white and black squares
promise order
in the morning mess
of mulling over

the latest political morass,
what's on sale at Kohl's,
the book review.

Each letter, shared,
which lifts away
some sheen of loneliness I
can't quite explain.

This week, "arsenic" and "forsythia"
are joined by their i's
like long-estranged cousins.

And when they ask
for the French equivalent of sky,
I'm back on a wooden chair

in Madame Baumlin's
eighth-grade class, passing
a note to David, having

no idea, as my hand grazes his,
that he will drown sailing
that next summer.

I like doing the crossword
with my husband —
Source of support,
three letters.

I'm the one who guesses it,
glad he doesn't think
of " bra" in this way.

The puzzle rests
on the counter all week.

I like coming back,
looking at the same clue
I found insolvable
the day before, my mind

often a mystery to me,
turning corners when I sleep
or am upstairs folding clothes.

They get added to pounds.
Yesterday I thought
it had to do with money or meat;

now I can see the chain-link fence
at the local animal shelter.
Of course. "Strays"

"Crossword" by Sally Bliumis-Dunn, from Second Skin. © Wind Publications, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the man most responsible for reviving Hebrew as a spoken language, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (books by this author), born in Luzhki, part of the Russian Empire (1858). He wanted to make sure that Jewish people from around the world could communicate with each other. Though children from Jewish families often learned some Hebrew at Hebrew school, at the time no one on earth spoke modern Hebrew at home as a first language. Many European Jews spoke Russian or Yiddish, a Germanic language written in the Hebrew alphabet.

Ben-Yehuda felt that reviving the Hebrew language was firmly intertwined with the creation of a Jewish homeland, which did not yet exist. He raised his child to be the first native speaker of modern Hebrew, and he's the author of first modern Hebrew dictionary. Today, modern Hebrew is spoken by more than 7 million people in Israel. It's one of Israel's two official languages. The other is Arabic.

On this date in 1610, Galileo wrote a letter describing his discovery of three of Jupiter's moons. He had recently made some improvements to his telescope, and he discovered them in December. As he continued to observe them over the next few months, a fourth celestial body appeared, and he realized that they were actually orbiting the giant planet. Since most people at that time still believed in the Ptolemaic theory — that the Earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around us — it was an important discovery. It went a long way toward confirming Copernicus's controversial theory that the Earth went around the Sun.

Today is the birthday of Zora Neale Hurston (books by this author), born in Notasulga, Alabama, in 1891. She grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated African-American community in the United States, with a population of about 125. Hurston loved it there, and would set many of her stories in Eatonville, depicting it as a sort of Utopia; she also described it in her 1928 essay, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me." When she was 13, her mother died, and her father remarried immediately, so she was sent to a boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. She was expelled when her father stopped paying her tuition, and she went to live with a series of family members.

She went to Howard University, and cofounded the school's newspaper, The Hilltop. She was offered a scholarship to Barnard College, where she studied anthropology, and she was the college's only black student. She published many short stories in the 1920s and early '30s, and her first book, Mules and Men (1935), was an anthropological study of African-American folklore. She's best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

A founding member of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston died in poverty in 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1973, novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found an unmarked grave in the cemetery where Hurston was buried, and marked it as hers. Alice Walker wrote about the event in her article "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" (1975), and the article sparked a renewed interest in Hurston's writing.

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

 









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