Aug. 12, 2002

A Lecture on Aphids

by Charles Goodrich

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Poem: "A Lecture on Aphids," by Charles Goodrich from Insects of South Corvallis (Knot House).

A Lecture on Aphids

She plucks my sleeve.
"Young man," she says, "you need to spray.
You have aphids on your roses."

In a dark serge coat and a pill box hat
by god it's my third grade Sunday school teacher,
shrunken but still stern, the town's
most successful corporate attorney's mother.
She doesn't remember me. I holster
my secateurs, smile publicly,
and reply, "Ma'am,

did you know a female aphid is born
carrying fertile eggs? Come look.
There may be five or six generations
cheek by jowl on this "Peace" bud.
Don't they remind you
of refugees
crowding the deck of a tramp steamer?
Look through my hand lens-
they're translucent. You can see their dark innards
like kidneys in aspic.

Yes, ma'am, they are full-time inebriates,
and unashamed of their nakedness.
But isn't there something wild and uplifting
about their complete indifference to the human prospect?"

And then I do something wicked. "Ma'am," I say,
"I love aphids!" And I squeeze
a few dozen from the nearest bud
and eat them.

After the old woman scuttles away
I feel ill
and sit down to consider
what comes next. You see,
aren't sweet
as I had always imagined.
Even though rose wine is their only food,
are bitter.

It's the birthday of poet J.D. McClatchy, born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in 1945. He is the author of the essay collection Twenty Questions, and a book of poems called Ten Commandments.

It's the birthday in New York City, in 1940, of writer Gail Parent, the author of comic novels like The Best Laid Plans (1980), and Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York (1972). Besides her novels, Parent was a comedy writer for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and the mother of two sons. She says: "Having children kept me normal, because I was never able to go off and celebrate joyously over something for a week or do what I feel like, nor did I allow myself to dwell on unhappiness when something went wrong. You can't do that when you have children, and I attribute my sanity to having them."

The Wizard of Oz was premiered on this day in 1939 at a theater in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Virtually nobody in the national press noticed, so the so-called official premiere was held three days later at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

It's the birthday in Chicago, 1931, of novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President's Men.

It's the birthday of novelist Wallace Markfield, in Brooklyn, in 1926. He's best remembered for his 1970 comic novel, Teitlebaum's Window.

It's the birthday, in Hillisburg, Indiana, of Zerna Sharp, born in 1889. She was the originator of the Dick and Jane readers for children, which introduced only one new word on each page.

It was on this day in 1877 that Thomas Alva Edison, working in his Menlo Park, New Jersey, lab, completed the model for the first phonograph, a device that recorded sound onto tin-foil cylinders.

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




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