Feb. 23, 2002


by Suzanne Matson

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Poem: "Wifery," by Suzanne Matson from Durable Goods (Alice James Books).


After the gentle click of the latch behind him
the house readjusts to a new order,
its details trembling on a string of lists:
walk to the market, walk to the cleaners, start stew.
She is testing a life as readymade for her
as love, how the shape of someone's
shoulders suddenly come to mean this much;
this far and no farther. With utter
certainty she crushes the iced slush underfoot
in a morning as wide-open and delicate as
the mouth of a teacup: she must have
twelve small white onions, she must have
bleeding cubes of stewing beef, and cream
of tartar for biscuits. The summer night they met
she said, I can't cook, I don't cook.
Now in winter the blade makes neat work
of her lie, quartering potatoes
glistening in their nudity, filling the simmering
pot to its fragrant hissing lip.

On this day in 1997, scientists in Scotland announced they had succeeded in cloning an adult mammal, producing a sheep they named Dolly.

It's the birthday of William L. Shirer, born in Chicago, Illinois (1903). After graduating from college, he expected to spend two months in Europe. He stayed for more than twenty years, and became one of America's most outstanding war correspondents. He spent much of his early career in Vienna, Berlin, and Prague, reporting on the Nazis' rise to power. Back in the United States after the war, Shirer was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. This gave him time to write one of the most famous chronicles of World War Two, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1959), which won the National Book Award.

It's the birthday of writer, educator, and activist W(illiam) E(dward) B(urghardt) DuBois, born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts (1868), one of the founders of the N.A.A.C.P., and author of The Souls of Black Folk (1903).

It's the birthday of author and educator Emma Hart Willard, born in Berlin, Connecticut (1787). At the age of thirteen, she taught herself geometry - a subject then thought to be beyond the capacity of women. She became the director of a girls' academy in Middlebury, Vermont. Later, she opened the Troy Female Seminary in upstate New York, which included classes in mathematics and science, courses offered at no other women's school in the United States.

It's the birthday of baroque composer George Friederic Handel, born in Halle, Germany (1685). He's best known for his oratorio The Messiah, which premiered in Dublin in 1741.

It's the birthday of diarist Samuel Pepys, born in London, England (1633). He was a prominent man of his day in England: a member of Parliament, Secretary of the Admiralty, president of the Royal Society, and friend of such notables as Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Isaac Newton. However, he's best remembered for the diaries he kept between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-six-a personal record of the largest events and the smallest customs of Restoration England.

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