Aug. 16, 2002


by Robert Kinsley

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Reunion," by Robert Kinsley from Endangered Species (Orchises Press).


Here past the edge of town,
this one as well as any other
in the Adirondacks, the trees lock arms
and lean into each other like
relatives at a family reunion.
This is some history; listen to the names,
Sugar Maple, Black Spruce, Wild Cherry,
Sweet Birch, the old White Oaks. On and
on into the hillsides until my tongue rolls
and I whisper Ohio, imagining this is what it was
one hundred years ago, imagining this is what
whispered in the ear of Tecumseh, who fought for it
for twenty years, knowing when he started he couldn't
win, but who fought and lost anyway, imagining
this is what whispered to my great grandfather
Marvin Peabody, when he dropped down out of the
Northeast. Who left when he heard his neighbors
unfolding the arms of trees with axes and bucksaws
and headed west, rubbing the fine dust from his eyes.
But came back when he saw that like Ohio, that too
was lost. He came back I suppose because he had
nowhere else to go. Or maybe he just liked the name
Ohio. And why not. Whisper it now, whisper
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, and amid the miles of concrete,
under the culverts dumping waste, around the smokestacks
over by the river, a breeze picks up
sending a ripple, like a litany
through the family of tree.

Gold was discovered in Alaska on this day in 1896. Three men found the gold in a little tributary off the Klondike River named Rabbit Creek. They said it laid "thick between the flaky slabs like cheese sandwiches." The discovery opened up the great Klondike Gold Rush. Discovery Day is celebrated every year in the Yukon.

It's the birthday in Salt Lake City, 1902, of writer Wallace Thurman. He moved to Harlem in 1925, and joined writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston in what later came to be called the Harlem Renaissance.

It's William Maxwell's birthday, the novelist and short story writer, born in 1908, in the central Illinois town of Lincoln. His mother died in the worldwide 1918 flu epidemic, and Maxwell moved to Chicago with his family. After college he went to New York, and it was there that he became a fiction editor at The New Yorker. Maxwell stayed for 40 years (1936-1976) and edited John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, Mary McCarthy, Eudora Welty, and dozens of others who wrote for the magazine. He also published about 20 books of his own, including They Came Like Swallows; The Folded Leaf; and So Long, See You Tomorrow.

It's the birthday of the prolific children's author, Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, 1914, Lafayette, Indiana, author of nearly 50 books for kids, including May I Bring a Friend, which won the 1965 Caldecott Award.

Today is the birthday of the writer Charles Bukowski (1920). He was born in Germany, the son of a US soldier and a German woman, and grew up in Los Angeles. He once almost drank himself to death, but returned to writing and soon published his first book of poems Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail (1959). His other titles include Love Is a Dog From Hell (1977), Shakespeare Never Did This (1979), and Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live With Beasts (1965).

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