Mar. 3, 2002

Getting Through Sundays

by Sonia Gernes

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Poem: "Getting through Sundays," by Sonia Gernes from Women at Forty (University of Notre Dame Press).

Getting through Sundays

The ghosts of Sunday are small.
Even as a child you felt the gap
in the afternoon, the restlessness
you could not exorcise, tipping dominos
in your grandmother's house, the men
snoring in their chairs, the women smiling
like sisters-in-law. It was a space
too pale to be labeled grief, a concave fret
of something missed, as though
you knew in advance the lovers
you'd lose, the clocks that would tick
long past their last winding. Once

in a high coastal town, the future
beckoning across the bright water,
you waited through Sunday anesthetized,
while up in the turret, a window dropped,
trapped a hundred butterflies
who died there in the sun.
the next day was dark.
You swept frail and folded corpses in a dustpan,
threw splinters of flight to the wind.

Now you listen to the radio,
to rain that falls on all of Indiana.
You pick dead leaves from your plants,
think of all the letters you owe,
and how strange you feel-as though
some hollow behind your eyes
were suddenly enclosed-as though
under your skin, vaporous wings
stirred, stuttered awake, and rose.

It's the birthday of poet James Merrill, born in New York City (1926). He was the son of investment banker Charles E. Merrill, the founder of Merrill Lynch. At the age of eight, young James was already writing a poem a day. His parents divorced when he was thirteen, and the event had a profound influence on his life, becoming a recurring theme in his poetry. His collection, First Poems, was published in 1951, to great acclaim. He followed with fourteen more volumes of poetry, including the award-winning Nights and Days (1966, National Book Award), Braving the Elements (1972, Bollingen Prize), and Divine Comedies (1976, Pulitzer Prize). He died of a heart attack in 1995.

It's the birthday of writer Cliff Faulknor, born in Vancouver (1913). He wrote popular adventure stories for young readers, including the trilogy: The White Calf, The White Peril, and The Smoke Horse.

On this day in 1915, D.W. Griffith's controversial film The Birth of a Nation received its premier. The film, starring Lillian Gish and a cast of thousands, was based on a play called The Clansman, and was immediately denounced by the NAACP as "the meanest vilification of the Negro race." Despite its racism, the film was responsible for dozens of technical innovations, particularly in the use of tracking shots and close-ups. In its first decade, the film grossed eighteen million dollars, making it one of the most lucrative films of all time.

It's the birthday of inventor Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1847), the inventor of the telephone. In the 1870s, he invented the photophone, which transmitted sound on a beam of light. The invention was the precursor of modern fiber-optic communications.

On this day in 1802, Ludwig van Beethoven published one of the most famous piano pieces ever written, the "Moonlight Sonata." Its official title is Sonata number 14 in C Sharp Minor, Opus 27, number 2.

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




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