Mar. 26, 2005

The Goose

by Muriel Spark

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Poem: "The Goose" by Muriel Spark, from All the Poems of Muriel Spark. © New Directions. Reprinted with permission.

The Goose

Do you want to know why I am alive today?
I will tell you.
Early on, during the food-shortage,
Some of us were miraculously presented
Each with a goose that laid a golden egg.
Myself, I killed the cackling thing and I ate it.
Alas, many and many of the other recipients
Died of gold-dust poisoning.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of journalist Bob Woodward, born in Geneva, Illinois (1943). Along with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, Woodward covered the burglary at the Watergate apartment complex (1972), and the cover-up that led to the resignation of President Nixon in August, 1974. He and Bernstein won a Pulitzer Prize for their book All the President's Men (1974).

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Erica Jong, born in New York City (1942). She caused a sensation with her novel Fear of Flying (1973). She wrote,

"Friends love misery. Sometimes, especially if we are too lucky or too successful or too pretty, our misery is the only thing that endears us to our friends."

It's the birthday of Beat poet Gregory Corso, born in New York City (1930).

It's the birthday of comic Bob Elliott, born in Boston (1923), who, with his comedy partner Ray Goulding, got his start on radio station WHDH in Boston, improvising sketches on their program Matinee with Bob and Ray (1946-51). Then they moved to New York's WNBC where they had a live two-and-a-half hour show each morning, doing bumbling interviewer Wally Ballou, cooking hostess Mary McGoon, and soap opera star Linda Lovely.

It's the birthday of playwright Tennessee Williams, born in Columbus, Mississippi (1911). His first great hit was in 1945 with The Glass Menagerie (1945).

It's the birthday of poet Robert Frost, born in San Francisco (1874). His journalist father died of tuberculosis when young Robert was 11. His mother, who had $8 in the bank, had to take her young children back East and rely on the good will of the father's family. Frost went off to Harvard, but dropped out when he learned that he might have TB. He became a poultry farmer, but had a run of bad luck: his son Elliot, not quite 4 years old, died of typhoid fever. Frost blamed himself for it; he said the death was like "murdering his own child." Then, when the woman who owned the farm stopped by to see if she could collect some rent from him, she found chickens wandering everywhere, the house filthy, with dishes unwashed, and unswept floors. The next day she sent Frost an eviction letter. But then his mother-in-law stepped in and found his family a farm in southeastern New Hampshire, where they spent the next 11 years, during which he wrote many of his best poems. He wrote a friend later: "To a large extent the terrain of my poetry is the Derry landscape, the Derry farm. There was something about the experience which stayed in my mind, and was tapped for poetry in the years that came after."

It's the birthday of poet A. E. Housman, born in Worcestershire, England, 1859. He went off to Oxford, where he fell deeply in love with a man named Moses Jackson. A few years later, when Moses Jackson married and moved to India, Housman was so anguished that he fell to writing poems — and he continued writing until Jackson died 36 years later. His collection A Shropshire Lad came out in 1896.

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