Mar. 6, 2005

Ham and Cheese on Rye

by Gary Busha

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Poems: "Ham and Cheese on Rye" by Gary Busha, from Lines on Lake Winnebago. © Marsh River Editions. Reprinted with permission.

Ham and Cheese on Rye

I am an old man sitting on a sagging dock,
fishing in the rain, with not a fish in miles:
it is a perfect night for fishing.

Droplets run down my glasses, blurring my vision,
but there's nothing to see beyond the circle of light
from the dock, anyway.

I know they're out there, lurking in the weeds,
hiding in shadows, waiting until hunger brings them out,
forcing them to react without thinking, making them
bite against their will.

Like them, I feel the gnaw of hunger working. Like them
I try to hold off, stay put, keep from being like all the rest.
But time wins out, wears down the will,
and I reach inside my coat for a ham and cheese on rye.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born near Durham, England (1806). She was the first to write and publish love poems in English from a woman's point of view. Many of her love poems were sonnets for or about her husband, the poet Robert Browning, whom she met after he sent her a telegram that praised her writing. She married him in 1846 in secret, when she was 40 years old. She ran away with him to Florence, Italy, because her father had forbidden her to marry.

It's the birthday of sculptor, painter, architect, and poet Michelangelo, born in Caprese, Italy (1475). During his lifetime he created some of the most important artistic work ever made, including the Pieta in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome (1499) and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-12). He also wrote around 300 poems, as well as many letters. Most of the poems are love poems, and he started writing poetry when he was young, but he wrote his best poems in the last 20 years of his life.

In 1505 Michelangelo was commissioned to build a huge marble monument for Pope Julius II's tomb, and he worked on this piece for 40 years. Pope Julius kept interrupting him to make changes and to give him other jobs, and the monument was never actually completed. Only fragments of it survive today.

One of the jobs that the Pope gave Michelangelo that interrupted his work on the monument was the painting of frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It took him three and a half years to finish.

It's the birthday of humorist and fiction writer Ring Lardner, born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, in Niles, Michigan (1885). He was famous for his sports writing and the way he captured the way baseball players spoke in his writing.

When games were boring, Lardner would fill his articles with jokes and stories about the personal lives of players. He wrote for several Chicago newspapers, covering the Cubs and the White Sox. He wrote more than 4,500 articles and columns for newspapers throughout his life, as well as several other longer works of fiction. His first book was called You Know Me, Al (1916) about a made up baseball player named Jack Keefe, and it was supposedly a collection of letters Keefe had written.

One of Ring Lardner's good friends and drinking buddies was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald encouraged Lardner to publish a collection of short stories, and he did with the book How to Write Short Stories (1924). Lardner wrote a lot of satire, and he once wrote of Fitzgerald, "Mr. Fitzgerald sprung into fame with his novel This Side of Paradise which he turned out when only three years old and wrote the entire book with one hand. Mr. Fitzgerald never shaves while at work on his novels and looks very funny along towards the last five or six chapters." Some of Lardner's other fans included Dorothy Parker, H. L. Mencken, Edmund Wilson, and Virginia Woolf.

Ring Lardner said, "Where do they get that stuff about me being a satirist? I just listen."

It is the birthday of novelist Gabriel García Márquez, born in Aracataca, Colombia (1927). He's best known as the winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature, and for his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). He's also known as the main figure in writing known as "magical realism" which combines storytelling with elements of the supernatural.

García Márquez lived with his grandparents until he was eight years old. He was a shy boy, and his nickname in school was "the Old Man." He never liked playing sports and started telling stories from a young age. He said, "My earliest recollection is of drawing 'comics' and I realize now that this may have been because I couldn't yet write. I've always tried to find ways of telling stories and I've stuck to literature as the most accessible."

García Márquez started writing for the Bogotá newspaper El Espectador and he was eventually sent to Europe as a foreign correspondent. The government shut down the paper while he was in Paris, and this left him without any way of making money. He said, "For three years I lived by daily miracles. This produced tremendous bitterness in me... But if I hadn't lived those years I probably wouldn't be a writer."

One day in January of 1965, the complete first chapter of One Hundred Years Of Solitude came to him suddenly while he was driving his car from Mexico City to Acapulco. He came home that night and told his wife not to bother him and locked himself in a room for eight to ten hours a day for the next 18 months and wrote the novel. The original manuscript was 1,200 pages long, and García Márquez pawned their heater and his wife's hair dryer to pay for the postage to send the novel out to publishers.

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




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