Sep. 18, 2002

Death Mask

by Edward Field

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Poem: "Death Mask," by Edward Field from A Frieze For A Temple of Love (Black Sparrow Press).

Death Mask

           "Old age is the most unexpected
            of all the things that happen to a man."
            --Leon Trotsky.

            "Do not let me hear
            Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their
            Their fear…"
            --"East Coker," by T.S. Eliot


In the mirror now,
      what I see
reminds me
      I won't be here forever.

I don't feel like
      that face at all.
Inside it, I protest,
      I'm quite different.

It's somebody's grandfather,
      not me.

Whose grandfather is that?
      I don't want him.


Ah, memory, memory….


to be losing

the words.


How do you get from here to there-
I mean, from where I am
to the nursing home?
In a snap of the fingers,
the blink of an eye.

Like my mother said,
as she was being loaded
into the ambulance,
It went so fast.


          a lazy buzz,
          the quick sting.

A long inward breath,
the sudden

It's the birthday of Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault, born in Paris, France (1819). He provided experimental proof that the Earth rotates on its axis.

It's the birthday of actress Greta Garbo, born in Stockholm, Sweden (1905).

It's the birthday of dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille, born in New York, New York (1905).

It's the birthday of the novelist who has been named the "father of the Irish literary revival," Standish James O'Grady, born in Castletown Berehaven, County Cork, Ireland (1846).

It's the birthday of Samuel Johnson, born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England (1709). He is best known for his Dictionary of the English Language. It was the first major English dictionary to use illustrative historical quotations, some of which were cynical, such as the definition for "Lexicographer:" "A writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge," He was an indolent and overweight child and liked to have his friends pull him across a frozen pool by his garter rather than to be active himself. He went to Oxford for a while, but had to drop out because his father ran out of money when his bookkeeping business proved unsuccessful. He tried teaching, but hated it, and took up writing because it was something he could do. He married Elizabeth Porter, the widow of a good friend, and twenty years his senior. He said, "marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures." They left him with a severe fear of death, insanity, and religious damnation. Besides compiling the Dictionary, he edited the plays of William Shakespeare, and wrote poetry, plays, and satires. After his wife died he made friends with many prominent people, and formed The Club, made up of famous doctors, lawyers, and his new writer friend, James Boswell, who ended up being one of his two great biographers.

It's the birthday of Ray Geiger, born in Irvington, New Jersey (1910). For sixty years, he edited the Farmers' Almanac. Geiger was known for his pranks. By taking advantage of his influence on the Almanac, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to extend daylight savings time, and to move Thanksgiving into the month of October. He was successful in preventing the plans of the U.S. Post Office to change the locale names on postmarks to codes.

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




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