Feb. 13, 2003

This Year's Valentine

by Philip Appleman

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "This Year's Valentine" by Philip Appleman.

This Year's Valentine

They could
pump frenzy into air ducts
and rage into reservoirs,
dynamite dams
and drown the cities,
cry fire in theaters
as the victims are burning,
I will find my way through blackened streets
and kneel down at your side.
They could
jump the median, head-on,
and obliterate the future,
fit .45's to the hands of kids
and skate them off to school,
flip live butts into tinderbox forests
and hellfire half the heavens,
in the rubble of smoking cottages
I will hold you in my arms.

They could
send kidnappers to kindergartens
and pedophiles to playgrounds,
wrap themselves in Old Glory
and gut the Bill of Rights,
pound at the door with holy screed
and put an end to reason,
I will cut through their curtains of cunning
and find you somewhere in moonlight

Whatever they do with their anthrax or chainsaws,
however they strip-search or brainwash or blackmail,
they cannot prevent me from sending you robins,
all of them singing: I'll be there.


On this day in 1945, allied planes bombed Dresden, Germany, a city with no military importance, killing tens of thousands of people and destroying virtually the entire city. While the bombing destroyed the cultural center of the city in a violent firestorm, the only possible military or economic targets -- the barracks in the city's north and the train station -- were left unscathed. Many of the buildings that were partially destroyed have been rebuilt today, including the Zwinger Palace and the Dresden State Opera House, though traces of soot can be still made out on the facades of both buildings.

It's the birthday of Belgian novelist Georges Simenon, born in Liège in 1903, best known as the creator of Parisian police detective Inspector Maigret, who was modeled on his great-grandfather. He was an amazingly prolific writer, producing 84 Maigret mysteries and over 300 other books that have been translated into over 50 languages. As an old man, he lived in a tiny one-room apartment with his wife, despite becoming rich through the sales of his novels. He spent most of his day at his desk, writing, or smoking a pipe and gazing out on his small garden, at the center of which was an old cedar tree and a green bench for two. He said, "What you have not absorbed by the time you reach the age of eighteen you will never absorb. It is finished. You will be able to develop what you have absorbed. You will be able to make something or nothing at all of it, but your time for absorption is over and for the rest of your life you will be branded by your childhood." He also said, "Writing is not a profession, but a vocation of unhappiness."

It's the birthday of writer Ricardo Guiraldes, born on a ranch in rural Argentina in 1886, author of many novels set among the South American cowboys, the gauchos, including Don Segundo Sombra or Shadows in the Pampas (1926, 1935 trans.).

It's the birthday of Russian writer of fables, Ivan Krylov, born into a poor family in a provincial town near St. Petersburg.

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




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