Oct. 23, 2002

The Thaw

by Marianne Wolfe

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Poem: "The Thaw," by Marianne Wolfe, from The Berrypicker (Copper Canyon Press).

The Thaw

Late in November
The morning sun shows the trees
In white against white.
There is a certainty that
Tomorrow will be the same.

For months thereafter
The days hang onto each other
Like timid sisters.
Nothing is changed but bed sheets
Where I lie white against white.

I move out of the solitude,
Attaching myself
To some sight or sound,
Wrapping myself in it
Like a cocoon inside a leaf.

Then one day in April
The branches of trees claw
At the passing clouds,
And the spaces between
Are filled like lungs in the thaw.

The days move quickly,
Bicycles coasting downhill,
And I wonder if
I am standing still
And the landscape is moving forward.

In the transition I emerge
As if from a cocoon, renewed;
Perhaps nude, I continue
Though no more beautiful
And knowing no more than before.

It's the birthday of Nicolas Appert, the inventor of food preserving by canning, born in Chalon-Sur-Marne, France (1752). He was called the "Benefactor of Humanity" from the French government because he devised a system of heating foods and sealing them in airtight containers, thus ending the seasonal-only diet.

It's the birthday of Johnny Carson, comedian and long-time talk show host, born in Corning, Iowa (1925).

It's the birthday of American composer and author Ned Rorem, born in Richmond, Indiana (1923). When he was 75 years old, he presented at Carnegie Hall his magnum opus, a 36-song suite, called Evidence of Things Not Seen.

It's the birthday of British poet Robert Bridges, born in Walmer, Kent, England (1844). He grew up with wealth and luxury. His father died when he was ten, and Robert was sent to Eton for school. He attended Oxford, traveled for two years, and then set about on his goal of becoming a poet. But he decided, in order to equip himself to live the poet's life to the fullest, to practice medicine until the age of forty, and then retire to a life of poetry. He practiced medicine until he turned 37. Then, right at age 40, he married Mary Monica Waterhouse and settled into a comfortable life in Chilswell, on Boar's Hill. From 1884 to 1930, he devoted himself to poetry, and was named Poet Laureate in 1913. His most famous work is probably The Testament of Beauty. By the beginning of the 20th century, Bridges reputation had radically changed. Because readers were now more interested in "accessible verse," his work wasn't very popular. When an anthology was published in 1906 called Bridges to Kipling, one reader was heard to ask, "But what do we need bridges to Kipling for?"

It's the birthday of American author Michael Crichton, born in Chicago (1942). He grew up in a suburb of New York City, where his father was a journalist. He earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, but barely used it before he became a writer. He has written many novels, including Jurassic Park, Sphere, and The Andromeda Strain, and is the creator and executive producer of the television show ER. He collects modern art, once owned a software company, and has traveled the world extensively. At Harvard, where he wanted to be a writer, his writing style was continuously criticized by his literature and writing teachers and he earned a C average. He decided it was the school, not he, in error. So for the next assignment, Michael retyped an essay by George Orwell and submitted it as his own. The professor did not catch his plagiarism, and gave "Crichton" a B minus. Michael decided to change his major to anthropology. After graduating with an anthropology degree, he spent a year traveling around Europe and northern Africa and then returned to the U.S. and began medical school at Harvard. He said: "To quit medicine to become a writer struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman."

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