Jan. 17, 2002

At Twenty-Three Weeks She Can No Longer See Anything South of Her Belly

by Thom Ward

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Poem: "At Twenty-Three Weeks She Can No Longer See Anything South of Her Belly," by Thom Ward from Tumblekid (The Devil's Millhopper Press).

At Twenty-Three Weeks She Can No Longer See Anything South of Her Belly

I'm painting my wife's toes
In Revlon Super Color Forty Nine.
I've no idea what I'm doing.
She asked me to get the bottle,
then crashed on our bed,
muscle-sore, pelvis-aching.
Lifting the brush, I skim
the excess polish across the glass,
daub a smidgen on her nail,
push it out in streaks
over the perfect surface
to the cuticle's edge.
I'm painting my wife's toes.
I've no idea what I'm doing.
The smell of fresh enamel
intoxicates. Each nail I glaze
is a tulip, a lobster,
a scarlet room where women
sit and talk, their sleek,
tinctured fingers sparking the air.

On this day in 1893, a group of Americans in Hawaii, led by sugar planter Sanford Ballard Dole, overthrew the government of Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani. The Queen was very popular, and most Hawaiians opposed joining the Union, so President Grover Cleveland made a half-hearted attempt to restore Queen Liliuokalani to her throne. But the U.S. wanted to keep the port at Pearl Harbor ready in the event of war with Spain, and ultimately signed a treaty with Dole. Hawaii became a United States Territory in 1900, and achieved statehood in 1959.

It's the birthday of the English novelist Ronald Firbank, born in London (1886). He was a follower of Oscar Wilde, a believer in Aestheticism's creed of "art for art's sake," and something of a dandy, both in person and in print. He was the author of many novels in the 1920s, all but one published at his own expense.

It's the birthday of movie producer and director Mack Sennett, born Michael Sinnott, in Québec Province, Canada (1884). As a young man he worked in vaudeville and burlesque, and, at the age of 24, he took a job with the Biograph film company, where he appeared in a comedy alongside D.W. Griffith. Sennett wrote and acted in some of Griffith's films, and then began to direct films himself. He put together the Keystone Cops-who could run, leap, fall, jump and tumble well enough to outmaneuver moving cars, speeding trains, and anything else that got in their way. He was one of the first directors to shoot outdoors on location, and he cranked his cameras at a little less than the normal speed to make his films, "a shade faster and fizzier than life." He had a hard time making the transition to talking pictures, however, and spent the end of his life in a show business retirement home, living on social security checks.

It's the birthday of English novelist and poet Anne Bronte, born in Thornton, England (1820). Like her sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne spent her childhood roaming the Yorkshire moors and thinking up stories. She wrote her novel, Agnes Grey, a few years before she died of tuberculosis at the age of 29.

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