Apr. 29, 2002

Swans & The Police

by Michael Daley

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Poem: "Swans & The Police," by Michael Daley from Original Sin (Pleasure Boat Studio).

Swans & The Police

The trumpeter swans in a rainy field by the freeway
when the Everett Police car slips past,
all white pieces out of place,
stoppers in the mud holes.
A sign warns duck hunters:
"Swans are never in season; it is illegal to hunt them,"
and one wonders why it need be told.
Why, for that matter, not told the beauty of ducks
should exempt them, as the camouflaged
greasy beauty of hunters does them,
one lifting a spattered boot
while the other delicately pinches and raises the barbed wire
beside the road where hundreds of swan lie in the rain,
the Everett Police, one wants to think, slowing to admire
quietly, as Breughel might, having selected just this moment
for the serf to guffaw
at how beauty preens
and flutters in the ravaged corn mud.

It's the birthday of Jerry Seinfeld, born in Brooklyn, New York (1954). He grew up on Long Island, went to Queens College, and became a stand-up comedian. For a time, he had to support himself by selling light bulbs over the telephone. "It's a tough job," he says. "There's not many people sitting home in the dark saying, 'I can't hold out much longer.' " He went out to LA, where, in 1989, he started his own TV show. He described Seinfeld as "micro-concept TV": "It's long bank lines, subway muggings, missing rent-a-car reservations, rude waiters. Sneezing is good. No cute kids, no morals tacked onto the end."

It's the birthday of poet Yusef Komunyakaa, born in Bogalusa, Louisiana (1947). He won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1993 collection Neon Vernacular.

It's the birthday of Robert Gottlieb, born in New York City (1931). He was an editor at Alfred A. Knopf, Simon & Schuster, and for a number of years, at the New Yorker magazine.

It's the birthday of Duke Ellington, born in Washington, D.C. (1899). He started his own band in 1927, which included trumpeters Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams, and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. His 1930 recording, "Mood Indigo," made him famous.

It's the birthday of novelist Rafael Sabatini, born in Jesi, Italy (1875). Though he was born in Italy, he settled in England and wrote his books in English: The Sea Hawk (1915), Scaramouche (1921), and Captain Blood (1922). His grave was inscribed with a quotation from Scaramouche: "Born with a gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad."

It's the birthday of the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, born in San Francisco (1863). He took charge of his father's struggling newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner. Within two years, the paper was turning a profit. He came to New York City, bought the New York Journal, and a heated circulation war began between the Journal and the New York World. In 1898, the Journal whipped up public sentiment against Spain, and helped cause the Spanish-American War. In March 1898, he cabled an artist in Cuba, saying, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."

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