Jul. 16, 2001

The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb

by Sharon Olds

MONDAY, 16 JULY 2001
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Poem: "The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb," by Sharon Olds from Blood, Tin, Straw (Alfred A. Knopf)

The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb

Whatever he needs, he has or doesn't
have by now.
Whatever the world is going to do to him
it has started to do. With a pencil and two
Hardy Boys and a peanut butter sandwich and
grapes he is on his way, there is nothing
more we can do for him. Whatever is
stored in his heart, he can use, now.
Whatever he has laid up in his mind
he can call on. What he does not have
he can lack. The bus gets smaller and smaller, as one
folds a flag at the end of a ceremony,
onto itself, and onto itself, until
only a heavy wedge remains.
Whatever his exuberant soul
can do for him, it is doing right now.
Whatever his arrogance can do
it is doing to him. Everything
that's been done to him, he will now do.
Everything that's been placed in him
will come out, now, the contents of a trunk
unpacked and lined up on a bunk in the underpine light.

On this day in 1951, J. D. Salinger's first novel The Catcher in the Rye was published.

On this day in 1945, right before 5:30 in the morning, the first atomic bomb was detonated at White Sands Missile Range, in New Mexico. The flash vaporized the steel tower holding the bomb and melted the sand nearby into glass. It was visible from 250 miles away. The public was told that a munitions dump had exploded. Radiation levels at the site are still 10 times that of normal background radiation.

It's the birthday of novelist Reinaldo Arenas, born in the Oriente Province of Cuba in 1943. He joined the Cuban revolution, moved to Havana, and worked for the Castro regime while writing his first novel, Singing from the Well, which won awards but was his only novel to be published in Cuba. His next novel, Hallucinations, had to be smuggled from the country and published in France. Arenas was branded a "social misfit" because he was a homosexual, and he was imprisoned for several years during the 1970s. In 1980 he escaped during the Mariel "boat lift," and settled in New York, where he was treated like a pariah by the same intellectuals who had praised his work while he lived in Cuba for his fierce anti-Castro views. Dying of AIDS, he committed suicide when he was 47. Several of his novels were published after his death, including The Doorman and The Assault.

It's the birthday of American actress Barbara Stanwyck, born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn, New York, in 1907. She played "fallen women" in many, many movies.

It's the birthday of Mary Baker Eddy, born in Bow, New Hampshire, in 1821, and founder of the Christian Science religion. She was a sickly child, subject to seizures and nervous collapse, so she studied at home and became interested in spiritual healing. She heard of the success of a healer named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, and went to Portland, Maine, in 1862, where she was, she attested, cured immediately. She became his disciple, but rejected his teachings when she suffered a relapse, and recovered a second time after taking up her Bible. She dates her discovery of Christian Science to that year—1866. In 1875, she published the first of many versions of Science and Health, which espouses the theory that the mind is the sole reality, and that infirmities are illusory and susceptible to cure by purely mental effort. In 1883, she began to publish The Christian Science Monitor, which spread her teachings beyond New England.

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