May 14, 2003


by Kenneth Patchen

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Poem: "Mirru," by Kenneth Patchen from The Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen (New Directions Publishing Corporation).


I tiptoed into her sleep
And she was a little girl
Listening to her father clearing the snow
From the sidewalk in front of their house
And it was sweetly mixed-up
With funnypapers on Sunday morning
And black, surly-friendly tomcats
Smelling of New England and
Finnish bread but Finns talk too long
And little girls get tired and father calls
I'll be asleep before you will
And after a moment calls again
Aren't you asleep yet? and when you say no
He adds triumphantly
I told you I'd win, I'm asleep
Leaving you to puzzle over it
And later when she has nearly "grown-up"
Sitting with her mother in the warm kitchen
Reading Mystery Stories and father asking
Are you two going to stay up all night?
And her mother assuring him that
Just as soon as this chapter is finished
We'll stop but somehow they never did
And holding squirmy little flower-eyed rabbits

And watching for Santa Claus at the front door
While the snow swirled so prettily on the lawn
Like a white queen in a beautiful dress.

Literary Notes:

On this day in 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed at Tel Aviv. Jews had been campaigning for a Jewish territory in Palestine since the late 19th century. During the 1930s and 40s, the campaign grew, and many Arabs became more vocal in their opposition to a Jewish state. The United Nations helped to establish the boundaries between Israel and Palestine and set up a small buffer zone that included Jerusalem. In 1950, Israel enacted the Law of the Return, which would provide free and automatic citizenship for all immigrant Jews.

It was on this day in 1804 that Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast. William Clark wrote in his journal, "Rained the fore part of the day. . . . I Set out at 4 oClock P.M, in the presence of many of the neighboring in habitants, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie. . . a heavy rain this after-noon." The group traveled up through the Dakotas, through Montana and across the Continental Divide, and finally down to the mouth of the Columbia River. When they spotted the Pacific, Clark wrote in his journal, "Ocian in view! O! the joy." Thomas Jefferson was president at the time, and wanted to find out about the land he had just gotten through the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson was also interested in Native American culture, as well as western plants and animals. Lewis and Clark's party was well-stocked for their journey: they brought clothes; guns; medical supplies; a traveling library that included science and reference books; mathematical instruments; and loads of camping supplies, including twelve pounds of soap and 193 pounds of portable soup -- a thick paste made by boiling down beef, eggs and vegetables. They also brought gifts for Native Americans, including silk ribbons, ivory combs, 130 rolls of tobacco, vermilion face paint, 144 small pairs of scissors, and twelve dozen pocket mirrors. Lewis and Clark identified 178 plants and 122 animals that had never before been recorded for science, including the grizzly bear, which often chased the group across the plains and mountains. Lewis wrote, "the curiosity of our party is pretty well satisfied with respect to this animal."

It's the birthday of American novelist and travel writer Mary Morris, born in Chicago in 1947. While she was in graduate school, she read a short story by Rosellen Brown on the bus on the way back from a literary conference. She was so inspired by the story that she went home and wrote two stories herself, and sold them to a magazine for 800 dollars each, using the money to pay her rent. She didn't sell another story for ten years, but continued to write and has since published the travel memoirs Wall to Wall, From Beijing to Berlin by Rail (1992), and Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone (1998), as well as the novel The Waiting Room (1989).

It's the birthday of nature writer Hal (Harold Glen) Borland, born in Sterling, Nebraska in 1900. He wrote what he called "outdoor editorials" for the Sunday New York Times for 35 years, and he wrote four novels, including When Legends Die (1963). He said, "April is a promise that May is bound to keep."

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