Mar. 29, 2004


by Maurya Simon

MONDAY, 29 MARCH, 2004
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Poem: "Invocation," by Maurya Simon, from Ghost Orchid (Red Hen Press).


O God--who art dust mote and fern spore,
salt crystal and dog-star, who art refinery smoke,
cumulus, leaf-rot, dishwater and spindrift--

how can I know thy invisible movements
through this world, when thou inhabit even
the debris of lives, the perforations of years?

God, who wears the green mask of death,
who visits the world in wisps of prayer,
how can I divine thy face through my tears?

Give me some sign--a thumbprint, a fragrance
of hyacinth, stigmata of coal on my brow--
that I may steep my silence in faith;

show me thy secret handshake welcoming
the weeds, thy luminous smile, thy mind
that spins the world wildly on its axis--

consecrate me as thou would the tiger's yawn,
offering itself like the poor man's bowl,
to the terrified fawn, to the wayward dove--

and I will do thy bidding, polishing words
so they gleam like ice, abandoning my rage
to kneel before thee, swallowing my doubt.

But there is no answer when I call out,
and my longing darkens my throat, my mouth.
How can I lift my eyes to a gutted sky?

O God, who art neither father nor son, nor
holy ghost, who art haloed by radium clouds,
beloved by millions of sparkplugs and ants,

thou who nestles in war's lap, in the breasts
of desire, who conspires with the darkest joys,
who art as amorphous as a map of stillness--

I cry out to thee again and again, over
and over, and only the wilderness answers,
and the dangerous world's laughter--

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of politician Eugene (Joseph) McCarthy, born in Watkins, Minnesota (1921). He represented Minnesota in the U.S. Congress from 1949 to 1958, and in the Senate from 1959 to 1971. In 1967, he decided to run for president against Hubert Humphrey. McCarthy knew he didn't have a very good chance of winning, but he wanted to run in order to force a debate about Vietnam.

McCarthy said, "Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important."

It's the birthday of Judith Guest, born in Detroit, Michigan (1936). She's written three novels, each of them about adolescent children who have to deal with a crisis in their family: Second Heaven (1982), Errands (1997) and, most famously, Ordinary People (1976).

She didn't begin writing seriously until she was in her thirties, after all of her children had begun school. She finished the manuscript of Ordinary People in 1974 and sent it to Viking Press without the usual cover letter and plot synopsis. Viking hadn't published an unsolicited manuscript in over twenty-five years, but an editorial assistant happened to read Ordinary People and recommended it to her publishers. It was published two years later, and it became a bestseller. In 1980, Robert Redford made it into a movie, and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

It's the birthday of Eric Idle, born in South Shields, Durham, England (1943). He's one of the six founding members of the British comedy group Monty Python, famous for its movies and its long-running television show, Monty Python's Flying Circus. Idle often played ornery old women, as well as creepy old men and annoying talk show hosts. Monty Python's first movie was Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), in which Idle plays Sir Robin the Not-So-Brave, who wets his armor at the first sign of danger. The movie was followed by Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983).

Idle has written several books for children and adults, as well as a play, Pass the Butler. His first novel, Hello Sailor, came out in 1974, and his second novel, The Road to Mars (1999) was published five years ago.

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