May 19, 2002

June 1

by David Lehman

SUNDAY, 19 MAY 2002
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Poem: "June 1," by David Lehman from The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry (Scribner).

June 1

The new day (a gray streak
of light) begins with
the bubbles still in
last night's soda water
in my glass by the bed
I've got to pack pick up
a rental car load it and
drive up to Ithaca it'll be
good to be in the big house
but I don't want to leave
hard as it is to live in
this city I'm still a sucker
for the lights of Amsterdam
Avenue the bright yellow of
taxis in snow I feel like
a runner with a big lead off
first base who slides into second
and when the catcher's throw
skips into center field he hustles
to third his uniform streaked
with dirt he's safe

Today is the Christian feast of Pentecost, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles as tongues of flame. Pentecost-from the Greek word for "fifty days"-falls fifty days, or on the seventh Sunday, after Easter. Pentecost is also known as "Whitsunday," or "White Sunday."

It's the birthday of journalist and screenwriter Nora Ephron, born in New York City (1941). She was the daughter of screenwriters, grew up in Beverly Hills, and had her first taste of fame when her parents based a play on her letters home from Wellesley College. She went on the write for Vogue, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, and other magazines, and to publish several collections of her magazine articles. Her first screenplay was for the movie Silkwood (1983), in collaboration with Alice Arlen. This was followed by When Harry Met Sally... (1989), This Is My Life (1992) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

It's the birthday of African-American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, born in Chicago, Illinois (1930). As a girl living in a white neighborhood in Chicago, she felt the effects of racism. When a mob tried to drive the family out of the segregated neighborhood, her father took the case to the Supreme Court, which in Hansberry v. Lee ruled that whites couldn't bar blacks from moving into their neighborhoods. Lorraine Hansberry attended public schools, then moved to New York City, where she ended up working as a journalist and taking part in civil rights protests. Her first play, A Raisin in the Sun (1959), was the first play by a black woman to appear on Broadway. It was a huge success.

It's the birthday of Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, in Omaha, Nebraska (1925). When he was five, his home was firebombed, and a year later his father was kidnapped, beaten, and left on a trolley track to be run over and killed. His mother was later committed to a state mental asylum, and young Malcolm ended up being sent to a juvenile detention home for delinquency. After he got out, he made his way to Boston, where he got mixed up with a burglary ring, and was sentenced to ten years in prison. While he was in prison, he became a follower of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. His Autobiography, as told to Alex Haley, was published in 1964. Shortly before his assassination, he said: "I am a Muslim, and my religion makes me be against all forms of racism. It keeps me from judging any man by the color of his skin. It teaches me to judge him by his deeds and his conscious behavior. And it teaches me to be for the rights of all human beings."

On this day in 1780, an unexplained, near-total darkness fell over much of New England, at midday. The more superstitious believed that doomsday had come. In New Haven, Connecticut, Colonel Abraham Davenport spoke out against adjourning the town council on account of the darkness. He said: "I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought."

On this day in 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon. Its mission was to gain control of the English Channel and launch an invasion of Britain. Stormy weather delayed the fleet's arrival, which gave England's navy time to prepare. When the Armada reached the southern coast of England in July, the British were able to fight them off with superior long-range guns.

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




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