Oct. 3, 2002

A Poem for Emily

by Miller Williams

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "A Poem for Emily," by Miller Williams from Living on the Sun Face (Louisiana State University Press).

A Poem for Emily

Small fact and fingers and farthest one from me,
a hand's width and two generations away,
in this still present I am fifty-three.
You are not yet a full day.

When I am sixty-three, when you are ten,
and you are neither closer nor as far,
your arms will fill with what you know by then,
the arithmetic and love we do and are.

When I by blood and luck am eighty-six
and you are someplace else and thirty-three
believing in sex and god and politics
with children who look not at all like me,

sometime I know you will have read them this
so they will know I love them and say so
and love their mother. Child, whatever is
is always or never was. Long ago,

a day I watched awhile beside your bed,
I wrote this down, a thing that might be kept
awhile, to tell you what I would have said
when you were who knows what and I was dead
which is I stood and loved you while you slept.

It's the birthday of cartoonist, writer and editor Harvey Kurtzman, born in Brooklyn, New York (1924), who founded MAD magazine in 1952.

It's the birthday of etiquette expert Emily Post, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1873), whose 1922 book on manners sold over one million copies.

It's the birthday of historian George Bancroft, born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1800), known as "The Father of American History" for his ten-volume History of the United States, published between 1834 and 1874.

It's the birthday of novelist and historian Gore Vidal, born Eugene Luther Vidal, in West Point, New York (1925). Gore Vidal published his first novel, Williwaw, in 1946 at the age of 21. Two years later, he published The City and the Pillar and he changed the course of his career. The story of a young homosexual, the book received scathingly moralistic notices from most of the mainstream press, and The New York Times refused to review his next five novels in the newspaper. Sales slipped along with his prestige, and so in the early 1950s, under three different pseudonyms, he wrote five pulp fictions while continuing to publish his literary novels. He said: "Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies."

It's the birthday of author Thomas Clayton Wolfe, born in Asheville, North Carolina (1900). His childhood in the boardinghouse at 48 Spruce Street colored his work and influenced the rest of his life. Wolfe's father drank heavily and his mother was ahead of her time as a successful female real estate speculator. His reminiscences of his life in Asheville were so frank and realistic that Look Homeward, Angel was banned from Asheville's public library for over seven years. Look Homeward, Angel is the story of Eugene Gant, a sensitive, intelligent boy growing up in a small Southern mountain city. Wolfe, who was a teacher, left his job after the success of the novel and continued writing. In New York City, he met Aline Bernstein, a successful set and costume designer in the New York theater, and they began a passionate and turbulent love affair. She was almost twenty years older than Wolfe, married, and the mother of two grown children.
With the aid of Mrs. Bernstein, he was able to continue his writing in New York.

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




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