Jan. 23, 2002


by Howard Moss


Poem: "Circle," by Howard Moss from New Selected Poems (Atheneum).


Now are we saying goodbye?
I think so but can't be sure.
The last phone call but one
Left everything up in the air.
When you called last, did you mean
What you said when you said you meant
To say that this call would be
The last if I didn't call?
In fact, I'm not sure at all
If you called or I called you back.
And did you say "goodbye,"
Or I say "good night" and you
Say "Do you mean 'good night'
Or 'goodbye'?" I think it was you.
And what were you trying to do
When you said, "You said we're through?"
How could that be since you
Were the first to bring it up?
I don't think it's what I said,
Though you keep saying I did.
In any case, now that you know
That you know what I meant to say,
Why don't you say what you mean?
I mean if you mean to say
That the last call was the last.
I think that that would be best.
If something is finished, it's just
As well to get up and go.
If you're interested still to know,
I like a slate wiped clean,
And if you would pick up the phone,
I'd tell you what I mean.

It's the birthday of the novelist and short story writer Alan Cheuse, born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (1940). Best known as the book reviewer and commentator for National Public Radio's All Things Considered, he is also the author of the novels The Grandmother's Club (1986) and The Light Possessed (1991).

It's the birthday of the Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott, born in Castries, Saint Lucia (1930). He grew up in the West Indies, and began writing poetry when he was very young. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992, after the publication of his long poem Omeros (1990), in which he imagines a Homeric epic played out in the lives of Caribbean fishermen.

On this day in 1922, a fourteen-year old Canadian boy with diabetes became the first patient to receive treatment by insulin injection. The treatment had been developed by two Canadian physicians, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, who discovered the connection between diabetes and the insulin-producing pancreas gland. The treatment was a dramatic success, and by 1923 insulin was widely available as a treatment for diabetes. Banting and Best went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

It's the birthday of American avant-garde poet Louis Zukofsky, born in New York City (1904). His greatest work was a long poem he called A. The poem was written in twenty-four sections.

It's the birthday of one of the greatest violin teachers of the twentieth century, Ivan Galamian, born in Tabriz, Persia (1903). He studied violin in Moscow, moved to Paris at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, and in 1937 emigrated to the United States. He taught for many years at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and at the Julliard School in New York City, where his students included Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman and Jaime Laredo.

It's the birthday of the French painter Éduoard Manet, born in Paris (1832). Throughout most of his lifetime, his paintings received a hostile reception from the artistic establishment. His paintings "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" (1862) and "Olympia" (1865), the latter a portrait of a reclining nude, shocked conservative audiences not only with their with subject matter, which was called indecent, but also with their radical use of color and tone. But these very things endeared Manet to the younger generation of painters, including Monet and Renoir, who became known as the Impressionists.

It's the birthday of the French novelist Stendhal, born Marie-Henri Beyle, in Grenoble, France (1783). He went to Paris when he was sixteen, hoping to become a playwright, but ended up with an appointment in the French military, obtained for him by a wealthy relative. The military took him to Italy, and a few years later, to Germany. He witnessed the burning of Moscow and the French retreat from Russia in 1812. After the fall of Napoleon's empire, he settled in Milan, where he wrote travel books and adopted the pseudonym Stendhal. He left Milan in 1821 to settle again in Paris, where he wrote the first of his two masterpieces, the novel Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and The Black, 1830), and then later, La Chartreuse de Parme (The Chaterhouse of Parma, 1939). He said: "A novel is a mirror that strolls along a highway. Now it reflects the blue of the sky, now the mud puddles underfoot."

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




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