May 29, 2002

Poem About Morning

by William Meredith

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Poem: "Poem About Morning," by William Meredith from Partial Accounts: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf).

Poem About Morning

Whether it's sunny or not, it's sure
To be enormously complex-
Trees or streets outdoors, indoors whoever you share,
And yourself, thirsty, hungry, washing,
An attitude towards sex.
No wonder half of you wants to stay
With your head dark and wishing
Rather than take it all on again:
Weren't you duped yesterday?
Things are not orderly here, no matter what they say.

But the clock goes off, if you have a dog
It wags, if you get up now you'll be less
Late. Life is some kind of loathsome hag
Who is forever threatening to turn beautiful.
Now she gives you a quick toothpaste kiss
And puts a glass of cold cranberry juice,
Like a big fake garnet, in your hand.
Cranberry juice! You're lucky, on the whole,
But there is a great deal about it you don't understand.

It was on this day in 1953 that Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tensing Norgay, reached the summit of Mount Everest, the first men ever to reach the top. They reached the top at 11:30 in the morning and spent just 15 minutes there while they planted the flags of their various countries and the United Nations. Hillary wrote about the ascent of the mountain in his book, High Adventure, and neither in the book nor in any interviews that Hillary or Tensing Norgay gave in years to come would either of them ever answer which of them had been the first.

It's the birthday of the ecologist Paul Ehrlich, born in Philadelphia in 1932. He's best known for his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, about potentially catastrophic results of overpopulation.

It's the birthday of the thirty-fifth President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1917, he was elected president in 1960, and a month before he was assassinated in 1963, John F. Kennedy said in a speech at Amherst College, "When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment."

It's the birthday of T.H. White, Terence Handbury White, born in Bombay in 1906. He discovered as he grew up that he got along better with animals than with people and he kept many pets-badgers, hawks, snakes, dogs (he liked Irish setters), and he had an owl that sat on his head-many of which appear in his most famous book, The Sword in the Stone, 1938, including the owl named Archimedes who sits on the head of the wizard Merlin. He wrote three more books about King Arthur which were later published together as The Once and Future King, which inspired the musical Camelot.

It's the birthday of the novelist and poet and essayist G.K. Chesterton, born in London in 1874. He wrote literary criticism and social commentary and theological essays after he converted to Catholicism in 1922. He's best-known, however, for his spy novel The Man Who Was Thursday, and for detective stories featuring Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest who was a detective.

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