Jul. 3, 2001

Old Blue

by William Stafford

Tuesday, 3 July 2001
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Poem: "Old Blue," by William Stafford from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press).

Old Blue

Some day I'll crank up that Corvette, let it
mumble those marvelous oil-swimming gears
and speak its authority. I'll rock its big wheels
till they roll free onto the drive. Nobody can
stop us then: loaded with everything, we'll pick up
momentum for the hill north of town. Mona,
you didn't value me and it's too late now.
Steve, remember your refusal to go along on
those deals when you all opposed me?—you had
your chance. Goodby, you squealers and grubbies;
goodby, old house that begins to leak, neighbors
gone stodgy, days that lean casually grunting
and snoring together. For anyone who ever needs
the person they slighted, this is my address: "Gone."

It's the birthday of the English playwright Tom Stoppard, born Tomas Straussler, in Zlin, Czechoslovakia, in 1937. His father, who worked for a Czech company in Singapore, was killed after the Japanese invasion of the island at the start of World War II. The rest of the family escaped to India, where his mother married a British officer named Kenneth Stoppard, who took them to England. Tom dropped out of school at the age of 17, worked as a journalist for a while, and then began writing plays. His first big stage success was Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead, which premiered in 1965. His most recent plays include Arcadia and The Invention of Love. He has also written a number of screenplays, including Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

It's the birthday of the English novelist Elizabeth Taylor, born in Reading, Berkshire, in 1912. A shrewd observer of the domestic manners of the English middle classes, Elizabeth Taylor was hailed as the Jane Austen of her day. The first of her 12 novels, At Mrs. Lippincote's, was written in 1945. Her other novels include The Wedding Group and Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. Elizabeth Taylor sometimes referred to her stories as "books in which practically nothing ever happens."

It's the birthday of food writer M. F. K. (Mary Frances Kennedy) Fisher, born in Albion, Michigan, in 1908, a few minutes before midnight on July 3. If she had been born on the Fourth of July, her father, a newspaperman, would have named her Independencia. She grew up in Whittier, California, and moved to Dijon, France with her husband when she got married. She took up cooking and wrote about it in books like Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, and How to Cook a Wolf.

It's the birthday of Franz Kafka, born in Prague, Chekslovakia, in 1883. A quiet, neurotic man, he lived with his parents until he was 31. He earned his law degree and went to work for an insurance company, but whenever he could, he found time to write. His most famous work, Metamorphosis, about a man who wakes up and finds he has been transformed into a giant insect, was first published in German in 1915. Kafka died of tuberculosis in 1924, leaving behind a note to his friend Max Brod, begging that all of his unpublished manuscripts be destroyed. Brod went against the Kafka's wishes, and so we are able to read The Trial, and The Castle.

It's the birthday of American actor and songwriter George M. Cohan, born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1878. He wrote "I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "Give My Regards to Broadway."

It's the birthday of the painter John Singleton Copley, born in Boston in 1738. In the 1770s, when the Revolution was brewing, Copley moved to London, where he did most of his work. Copley Square in Boston is named for him.

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




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