Jul. 8, 2003

A Dialogue of Watching

by Kenneth Rexroth

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Poem: "A Dialogue Of Watching," by Kenneth Rexroth from Sacramental Acts Love Poems (Copper Canyon Press).

A Dialogue of Watching

Let me celebrate you. I
Have never known anyone
More beautiful than you. I
Walking beside you, watching
You move beside me, watching
That still grace of hand and thigh,
Watching your face change with words
You do not say, watching your
Solemn eyes as they turn to me,
Or turn inward, full of knowing,
Slow or quick, watching your full
Lips part and smile or turn grave,
Watching your narrow waist, your
Proud buttocks in their grace, like
A sailing swan, an animal,
Free, your own, and never
To be subjugated, but
Abandoned, as I am to you,
Overhearing your perfect
Speech of motion, of love and
Trust and security as
You feed or play with our children.
I have never known any
One more beautiful than you.

Literary Notes:

On this day in 1932, the stock market fell to its lowest point during the Depression. It was called the Great Crash; from September 3rd, 1929, to July 8, 1932, the market lost almost 90% of its value. The full recovery didn't take place until 1954, 22 years later.

It's the birthday of novelist Anna Quindlen, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1953). Her first love was always fiction -- she published her first story in the magazine Seventeen when she was a junior in college. But she also landed a job as reporter for the New York Post as a college student, and she stuck with journalism until 1994, when she quit her job as a columnist for the New York Times to write novels full time. She had already published two bestsellers: Object Lessons (1991) and One True Thing (1994). Her latest books are Black and Blue (1998), about a woman's escape from domestic abuse, A Short Guide to a Happy Life (2000), inspired by her popularity as a commencement speaker, and Blessings (2002), about an abandoned baby who is raised by the eighty-year-old owner of an estate and her handyman. She said, "People read to know they're not alone. People write for the same reason. It's like putting a message in a bottle."

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer J(ames) F(arl) Powers, born in Jacksonville, Illinois (1917). As a Catholic he felt alienated in Jacksonville, since most of his neighbors were Protestant. In his first novel, Morte d'Urban (1962), Father Harvey Roche says, "Protestants were very sure of themselves there. If you were a Catholic boy you felt that it was their country, handed down to them by the Pilgrims, George Washington, and others, and that they were taking a risk in letting you live in it." He moved to Chicago after high school, during the Depression, and worked what odd jobs he could find, including a stint as a chauffeur for a mogul. Powers drove the man all over the South looking for investments. Later Powers got a job at a bookstore, but he was fired for refusing to buy war bonds. He made friends with European refugees and black jazz musicians, and in 1943, during World War II, he was arrested for refusing to join the military. He drew on his Chicago experience in his first book, a collection of short stories called Prince of Darkness, and Other Stories (1947). But most of his stories are about priests. When he was 25 he wrote one of his best: "Lions, Harts, Leaping Does." He published it in a little Chicago magazine called Accent, and it established his reputation as one of America's most promising young storywriters.

It's the birthday of French poet Jean de la Fontaine, born in Château-Thierry, France (1621). He's the author of the Fables (1668-1693), several volumes of poems that tell familiar stories such as "The Tortoise and the Hare." They are still popular in France today, where they are memorized by schoolchildren and studied by scholars. In the Fables, La Fontaine wrote, "It is impossible to please all the world and one's father."

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