Sep. 30, 2002

September Plowing

by W. S. Merwin

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Poem: "September Plowing," by W.S. Merwin from Flower and Hand (Copper Canyon Press).

September Plowing

For seasons the walled meadow
south of the house built of its stone
grows up in shepherd's purse and thistles
the weeds share April as a secret
finches disguised as summer earth
click the drying seeds
mice run over rags of parchment in August
the hare keeps looking up remembering
a hidden joy fills the songs of the cicadas

two days' rain wakes the green in the pastures
crows agree and hawks shriek with naked voices
on all sides the dark oak woods leap up and shine
the long stony meadow is plowed at last and lies
all day bare
I consider life after life as treasures
oh it is the autumn light

that brings everything back in one hand
the light again of beginnings
the amber appearing as amber

It's the birthday of poet, translator, and environmental activist W(illiam) S(tanley) Merwin, born in New York City, New York (1927), who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1971 for his book The Carrier of Ladders.

It's the birthday of composer and entertainer Donald Swann, born in Llanelli, Wales (1923), best known as half of the stage partnership of Flanders and Swann; also known for composing songs like "The Gas Man Cometh" and "I'm a Gnu."

It's the birthday of mystery writer Michael Innes, born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1906), creator of detective Inspector John Appleby.

It's the birthday of author and scholar Elie Wiesel, born in Sighet, Romania (1928). He's the author of the book Night, about his experiences in the concentration camp, Buchenwald.

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Truman Capote, born in New Orleans, Louisiana (1924). He was the son of a salesman and a 16-year-old beauty queen. His father worked as a clerk for a steamboat company, but he never stuck at any job for long, and was always leaving home in search of new opportunities. Truman learned to tap dance, he said, and was proud of the fact that he once danced for the passengers accompanied by Louis Armstrong, whose band was playing on the steamboat his father worked on. He was brought up in Monroeville, Alabama and lived some years with relatives, one of whom became the model for the loving, elderly spinster in several Capote's novels, stories, and plays. Capote's mother, Lillie Mae, wrote letters to her son and called him, often crying that she had no money and no husband. She eventually married again (to a well-to-do businessman), and Capote moved to New York, and adopted his stepfather's surname. When he was 17, he dropped out of school and began working for The New Yorker magazine. He said: "All literature is gossip," "Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself," and also noted that "I can ice-skate. I can ski. I can read upside down. I can ride a skateboard. I can hit a tossed can with a .38 revolver…I can tap dance. I can type sixty words a minute."

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