Jan. 7, 2005

About Friends

by Brian Jones

For a Five-Year-Old

by Fleur Adcock

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Poems: "For a Five-Year-Old" by Fleur Adcock, from Poems 1960-2000 © Bloodaxe Books. Reprinted with permission. And "About Friends" by Brian Jones, from Spitfire on the Northern Line © Chatto and Windus. Reprinted with permission.

For a Five-Year-Old

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:
it might crawl to the floor; we must take care
that no one squashes it. You understand,
and carry it outside, with careful hand,
to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
your gentleness is moulded still by words
from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
your closest relatives and who purveyed
the harshest kind of truth to many another,
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
And we are kind to snails.

About Friends

The good thing about friends
is not having to finish sentences.

I sat a whole summer afternoon with my friend once
on a river bank, bashing heels on the baked mud
and watching the small chunks slide into the water
and listening to them - plop plop plop.
He said, 'I like the twigs when know...
like that.' I said, 'There's that branch...'
We both said, 'Mmmm'. The river flowed and flowed
and there were lots of butterflies, that afternoon.

I first thought there was a sad thing about friends
when we met twenty years later.
We both talked hundreds of sentences,
taking care to finish all we said,
and explain it all very carefully,
as if we'd been discovered in places
we should not be, and were somehow ashamed.

I understood then what the river meant by flowing.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the anniversary of the first bit of motion picture to be copyrighted. In 1893, Thomas Edison Studios filmed a comedian named Fred Ott sneezing. It was registered for a copyright on this day in 1894.

The Fannie Farmer Cookbook debuted on this day in 1896, written by the woman called "the mother of the level measure," Fannie Merritt Farmer.

On this day in 1927, the first transatlantic phone service was installed, allowing telephone customers to call from New York to London for the first time.

"Buck Rogers," the first American science-fiction comic strip, debuted on this day in 1929, as did one of the first American adventure comic strips, "Tarzan."

It's the birthday of German-American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt, born in Solingen, Germany, in 1830, and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Bierstadt went abroad in his 20s to study painting. He was a student in Düsseldorf, Germany, and in Rome in the 1850s. Returning to the United States, he joined a survey team in the American western frontier in 1859 and sketched the majestic landscapes he saw there—the Rocky Mountains, Yosemite Valley, the Merced River. He then settled to work in a studio in New York City and created huge realistic panoramas based on his sketches of Western scenery.

It's the birthday of Saint Bernadette, born Marie Bernarde Soubirous, in Lourdes, France (1844). She saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, instructing her to have a chapel built at the Grotto of Massabielle, where healing waters from the spring would perform miracles for the sick.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Charles Addams, born in Westfield, New Jersey (1912). He's best known for his macabre humor and the Gothic settings of his cartoons, which regularly appeared in The New Yorker.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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