Oct. 26, 2000

To My Twenties

by Kenneth Koch

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 26 October 2000

Poem: "To My Twenties," by Kenneth Koch, from New Addresses (Alfred A. Knopf).

To My Twenties

How lucky that I ran into you
When everything was possible
For my legs and arms, and with hope in my heart
And so happy to see any woman--
O woman! O my twentieth year!
Basking in you, you
Oasis from both growing and decay
Fantastic unheard of nine- or ten-year oasis
A palm tree, hey! And then another
And another--and water!
I'm sill very impressed by you. Whither,
Midst falling decades, have you gone? Oh in what lucky fellow,
Unsure of himself, upset, and unemployable
For the moment in any case, do you live now?
From my window I drop a nickel
By mistake. With
You I race down to get it
But I find there on
The street instead, a good friend,
X-- N--, who says to me
Kenneth do you have a minute?
And I say yes! I am in my twenties!
I have plenty of time! In you I marry,
In you I first go to France; I make my best friends
In you, and a few enemies. I
Write a lot and am living all the time
And thinking about living. I loved to frequent you
After my teens and before my thirties.
You three together in a bar
I always preferred you because you were midmost
Most lustrous apparently strongest
Although now that I look back on you
What part have you played?
You never, ever, were stingy. What you gave me you gave whole
But as for telling
Me how to best use it
You weren't a genius at that.
Twenties, my soul
Is yours for the asking
You know that, if you ever come back.

It's the birthday of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, born in Chicago (1947). Like her parents, young Hillary was a staunch Republican, and as a freshman at Wellesley College in Massachusetts she became the head of the local chapter of the Young Republicans. She gained national exposure as a successful contestant on the television quiz show, College Bowl. From Wellesley, Rodham went to Yale Law School, and, in 1973, Rodham was asked to join the legal team of the House Judiciary Committee investigating President Richard Nixon. After Nixon's resignation in 1974, she turned down several offers from East Coast law firms to join Bill Clinton on the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Law.

It's the birthday of novelist Pat Conroy, born in Atlanta, Georgia (1945). He's the author of The Great Santini (1976), The Prince of Tides (1986) and Beach Music (1997).

It's the birthday of British aviator Beryl Markham, born Beryl Clutterbuck, in Melton Mowbray, England (1902). She grew up in Kenya, learned to hunt wild boar with native tribesmen, and to speak Swahili and other African languages. When she was 18, she became the first woman in Africa to receive a racehorse trainer's license, and later trained six winners of the Kenya Derby. In her early twenties, she learned to fly and became a bush pilot. In 1936, Markham became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west. In 1942, she published a memoir, West with the Night. She died in 1986, at the age of 83, after tripping over her dog and breaking her leg at her cottage in Nairobi.

It's the birthday of Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, born in New Orleans (1901). Mahalia Jackson's father was a longshoreman by day, a barber by night and a clergyman on Sunday morning. After her mother died, when Jackson was six, she was raised by her fiercely religious Aunt Duke, who introduced her to the jubilant music of the Baptist church. After moving to Chicago in 1928, she joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church and became a soloist in the church choir. During the 1930s, she toured the country with a gospel crusade, and began to attract a following. In October 1950, she made her first appearance before a sold-out house at Carnegie Hall.

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




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