Dec. 29, 2002

End of the Holidays

by Mark Perlberg

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "End of the Holidays," by Mark Perlberg from The Impossible Toystore (Louisiana State University Press).

The End of the Holidays

We drop you at O'Hare with your young husband,
two slim figures under paradoxical signs:
United and Departures. The season's perfect oxymoron.
Dawn is a rumor, the wind bites, but there are things
fathers still can do for daughters.
Off you go looking tired and New Wave
under the airport's aquarium lights,
with your Coleman cooler and new, long coat,
something to wear to the office and to parties
where down jackets are not de rigeur.
Last week winter bared its teeth.
I think of summer and how the veins in a leaf
come together and divide
come together and divide.
That's how it is with us now
as you fly west toward your thirties
I set my new cap at a nautical angle, shift
baggage I know I'll carry with me always
to a nether hatch where it can do only small harm,
haul up fresh sail and point my craft
toward the punctual sunrise.

On this day in 1849, a Christmas hymn called "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," written by Edmund Sears, was published in The Christian Register. He hoped the song would emphasize the ideas of "peace on earth, good will toward men."

It's the birthday of inventor Charles Goodyear, born in New Haven, CT (1800). When experimenting with ways to make rubber stronger, he accidentally dropped a mixture of rubber and sulphur on a hot stove. It became known as the process of vulcanization, which made the automobile possible, though it had not been invented yet.

It's the birthday of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president, born in Raleigh, NC in a two-room log cabin to nearly illiterate parents (1808). He didn't master the basics of reading or writing until he met his wife, Eliza, at the age of seventeen. Never a good speller, he said, "It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word." He was strongly opposed to secession, which made him the enemy of many southerners. Once on a train he was attacked by a mob who prepared to hang him. But an old man in the crowd shouted, "His neighbors at Greenville have made arrangements to hang the senator on his arrival. Virginians have no right to deprive them of that privilege." And he was let go. As president, he was impeached and was narrowly acquitted.

It's the birthday of science fiction writer Charles L. Harness, born in Colorado City, Texas (1915).

It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Robert Ruark, born in Wilmington, North Carolina (1915).

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show