Feb. 19, 2003

The Con Job

by Charles Bukowski

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Poem: "The Con Job," by Charles Bukowski from Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way (Ecco Press).

the con job

the ground war began today
at dawn
in a desert land
far from here.
the U.S. ground troops were
made up of
Blacks, Mexicans and poor
most of whom had joined
the military
because it was the only job
they could find.

the ground war began today
at dawn
in a desert land
far from here
and the Blacks, Mexicans
and poor whites
were sent there
to fight and win
as on tv
and on the radio
the fat white rich newscasters
first told us all about
and then the fat rich white
told us
and again
and again
on almost every
tv and radio station
almost every minute
day and night
the Blacks, Mexicans
and poor whites
were sent there
to fight and win
at dawn
in a desert land
far enough away from

It's the birthday of astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, born in Torun, Poland in 1473. He challenged the commonly held Earth-centered view of the universe by proposing a theory in which the Earth and all other planets revolved around the sun. His theory sparked a revolution in scientific thinking and set the groundwork for modern physics and astronomy.

It's the birthday of writer Kay Boyle, born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1902. She wrote Plagued by the Nightingale (1931) and many short stories.

It's the birthday of writer Amy Tan, born in Oakland, California in 1952. She is the author of The Joy Luck Club (1989).

It's the birthday of author Carson McCullers, born in Columbus, Georgia in 1917. At seventeen, she moved to New York to study piano at the Julliard School of Music, but she lost her wallet with all her tuition money somewhere along the way. She worked in menial jobs to make ends meet and took writing classes at Columbia University to satisfy her urge to create. She got married, got divorced, and moved into a brownstone in Greenwich Village, where her housemates included W.H. Auden, Paul Bowles and Gypsy Rose Lee. Here she finished her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), at the age of 22. Critics praised the book and were amazed at the young age of its author. One day in 1946, a fire engine's siren sounded loudly outside the house. McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee ran out the door to investigate, and as she stepped into the street, McCullers was oddly inspired to shout, "Frankie is in love with her brother and his bride and wants to become a member of the wedding!" McCullers had been meditating on ideas for a novel she was writing, and The Member of the Wedding (1946) became her most well-known work. It is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl named Frankie who is jealous of her brother's upcoming wedding. After its publication, she ran into a patch of ill health. She had a stroke, a heart attack and suffered from breast cancer. She did very little writing during that part of her life. She died in 1967 at the age of fifty. Several of her books have been made into films: The Member of the Wedding (1952; directed by Fred Zinnemann, 1997; directed by Fielder Cook), Reflections of a Golden Eye (1967; directed by John Huston), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968; directed by Ellis Miller), and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991; directed by Simon Callow). The dramatized version of The Member of the Wedding has also seen perennial success in community theaters and continues to be produced today.

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