Feb. 12, 2003

For Laurel and Hardy on My Workroom Wall

by David Wagoner

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Poem: "For Laurel and Hardy on My Workroom Wall," by David Wagoner from The House of Song (University of Illinois Press).

For Laurel and Hardy on My Workroom Wall

They're tipping their battered derbies and striding forward
In step for a change, chipper, self-assured,
Their cardboard suitcases labeled
Guest of Steerage. They've just arrived at the boot camp
Of the good old French Foreign Legion
Which they've chosen as their slice of life
Instead of drowning themselves. Once again
They're about to become their own mothers and fathers
And their own unknowable children
Who will rehearse sad laughter and mock tears,
Will frown with completely unsuccessful
Concentration, and will practice the amazement
Of suddenly understanding everything
That baffles them and will go on baffling them
While they pretend they're only one reel away
From belonging in the world. Their arrival
Will mark a new beginning of meaningless
Hostilities with a slaphappy ending. In a moment,
They'll hear music, and as if they'd known all along
This was what they'd come for, they'll put down
The mops and buckets given them as charms
With which to cleanse the Sahara and move their feet
With a calm, sure, delicate disregard
For all close-order drill and begin dancing.


It's the birthday of Charles Darwin, born in Shrewsbury, England in 1809. When he was only twenty-two years old he set sail for Patagonia on a surveying expedition of the HMS Beagle, working as a janitor and assistant to the captain. During the five-year trip, Darwin collected all the evidence that he would need to construct his theories of evolution. It was the only time he ever left England. He was sick most of his adult life. On the Origin of Species came out in 1859, the year before Abraham Lincoln was elected President.

It's the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky in 1809. When he was seven, his family moved to Indiana. He was largely self-educated, and spent much of his childhood chopping wood and doing other chores on the property. As a young man, he moved to New Salem, Illinois, where he practiced law and was elected to the state legislature four times. He also operated a small store, worked as a surveyor and postmaster, entertained his friends and neighbors with frequent stories, and was a captain in the Black Hawk War. His law partner said of him, "His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest." He was elected president in 1860 even though he won only 40 percent of the popular vote, and soon found himself in the throes of the Civil War. His collected speeches and correspondence make up a great classic of American letters. His second inaugural address was given less than a month before his assassination in 1865, in which he said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

It's the birthday of writer Judy Blume, born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1938. She has written over twenty books for young adults.

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




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