May 29, 2003

Flying Blue Angel

by Nancy Frederiksen

(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Flying Blue Angel," by Nancy Frederiksen from Coming up for Air (Paper Jack Creek Press).

Flying Blue Angel

You were leader of the pack
and it had been brave of me
to trust in you,
meet you at the rink
lace our skates
in the warming house
tune our rhythm to the
Flying Blue Angels crackling
from a make-shift loudspeaker
hooked to the top of an old car.

Freshman year, Mother said
"tell that boy good-bye"
and I handed out her verdict.
You took it as if it belonged
to you, fit like a second skin.

Years later, the woman you
married left
with bruises traced back to you,
further back then to your father.
Did the hand that held mine, do that?

My heart disbelieves
only the music
daredevils of the sky
arms linked in trust

hearts wide open.

Literary Notes:

It's the birthday of British novelist T.H. White, born in Bombay, India (1906). He made a name for himself when he published The Sword in the Stone (1938). The novel is about the education of young King Arthur by the wizard Merlyn.

It's the birthday of American revolutionary Patrick Henry, born in Studley, Virginia (1736). He spoke the famous words, "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death."

It's the birthday of British author G.K. Chesterton, born in London, England (1874). He wrote detective fiction in order to fund the weekly newspapers he edited and published, but his detective fiction was more popular than the newspapers. Chesterton is best known for his stories about Father Brown, a crime solving priest who appears to know nothing, who is clumsy and constantly misplacing his umbrella, who has a habit of falling asleep during police interrogations, but who in fact knows more about crime than the criminals who surround him. He got the idea for Father Brown when he converted to Catholicism and realized that Catholic priests, who listen to confessions all day long, know more about depravity than almost anyone else in society.

It was on this day in 1989 that former Arizona senator and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater died in Paradise Valley, Arizona at age 89. His grandfather was a polish Jew who came to the United States during the California gold rush. His father managed a department store in Phoenix, Arizona, and since he was one of the only Jews in town, he married an Episcopalian. Goldwater grew up Episcopalian, but he never forgot that his father was Jewish. He took over his father's department store as a young man, and introduced several successful lines of clothing, including "Antsy Pants," which were men's under shorts covered with large red ant imprints; they were a national sensation. As manager of the store, Goldwater was one of the first Phoenix businessmen to offer health insurance and life insurance to his employees, and he was the first employer to hire blacks as salesclerks. He loved to fly planes, and though he was too old to fly combat missions in World War II, he talked his way into flying transports and supplies in Asia. When he got into politics, he flew himself around the state of Arizona in his own plane. He won the race for senator in Arizona 1952 at a time when Arizona was a mostly Democratic state. He became known as the leader of the conservative faction of the Republican party, and he hoped to run for president against John F. Kennedy in 1964. But Kennedy was shot and he had to run against Lyndon Johnson. He lost the election in a landslide, only winning five states, but he later said he never met a man who didn't claim to vote for him. After losing the election, he reentered the senate and grew his hair longer. He voted to end the draft and to give eighteen year olds the vote. He was one of the senators who persuaded Nixon to resign, and he fought for Indians' rights and he supported environmentalism. Some people said he was no longer conservative, but he said he just did what he thought was right.

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