Dec. 31, 2002


by David Budbill

Like Smoke from Our Campfire

by David Budbill

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Like Smoke From Our Campfire" and "Tomorrow," by David Budbill.

Like Smoke From Our Campfire

All those plans for fame and fortune, honor and glory,
      where are they now?

Drifted away like smoke from our campfire, dissipated
      into the thin, night air,

the fire deserted and gone down to a few ashy coals,
      almost out.

And all of those who sat around the fire: gone away too
      into oblivion.


we are
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
poking through
our skulls.

simple clothes,
empty mind,
full stomach,
alive, aware,
right here,
right now.

Drunk on music,
who needs wine?

Come on,
let's go dancing
while we've
still got feet.

Today is the last day of the year, New Year's Eve Day -- the celebration of which goes back to the Romans in 153 B.C. By their calendar, however, January 1st fell where April 1st falls now, toward the beginning of spring. The Romans gathered like we do now to dance and sing and, at the stroke of midnight, wish each other a happy and prosperous new year. Today we sing "Auld Lang Sine," which means "old long since," or "the good old days," written by Robert Burns in 1788.

On this night in 1897, a solemn ceremony was held to commemorate the final day of the existence of the city of Brooklyn before its incorporation into New York City. The rest of the city was jubilant; crowds gathered, fireworks were set off everywhere, and bands played "The One New York Two-Step."

It's the birthday of artist Henri Matisse, born in Le Cateau, France (1869). He's the author of the rare book Jazz (1947). At the end of his life, because he was an invalid, he stopped painting and began using cut paper to make collages.

It's the birthday of Catherine Read Williams, born in Providence, Rhode Island (1790). She wrote Fall River: An Authentic Narrative, one of the earliest examples of public reporting in the United States. It was an account of the mysterious death of Sarah Cornell, a young mill worker whose body was found hanging in a barn one winter day in 1832. She was several months pregnant, and her death was ruled a suicide until a note was found in her belongings: "If I am gone missing enquire of the Rev. Mr. Avery of Bristol; he will know where I am." Reverend Ephriam Avery was a prominent Methodist minister, a married man with several children. A posse found him hiding in New Hampshire and brought him back for trial, but Avery was acquitted on all counts. In her book about the murder, Williams had a lot to say about the corruption of the New England clergy, and it caused a great sensation when it was released.

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