Apr. 24, 2005

The Angel

by Michael McFee

SUNDAY, 24 APRIL, 2005
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Poem: "The Angel," by Michael McFee, from Earthly (Carnegie Mellon University, 2001).

The Angel

unhooks her wings after another long day.
They are her glory but also a burden,
binding her chest and making her sacrum ache.
She reaches behind herself to unfasten
them without the least hesitation or thought,
letting the sweaty wings collapse to the floor.

The angel scratches a ticklish spot
and starts to let down the radiant hair
sometimes mistaken for a halo,
unweaving her braid as gracefully
as she composed its strands long ago.
But how can those backward fingers see?

And then she slips off her slip in the dark.
My heart is tinder to that holy spark.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of playwright and actor Eric Bogosian, born in Boston (1953). He's the author of a number of monologues, including Talk Radio (1987), Drinking In America (1987), and Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll (1990).

It's the birthday of crime novelist Sue Grafton, born in Louisville, Kentucky (1940). She had a very bitter custody battle with her ex-husband, and had a fantasy about poisoning him. She knew she would never do it, "so the next best thing was to put it in a book and get paid for it." The result was her first novel, A is for Alibi (1982). Since then, she's delivered a new mystery novel to her publisher every August 15—each one named for another letter of the alphabet. Her latest is O is for Outlaw (2001).

It's the anniversary of the Easter Uprising, in Dublin (1916). A band of Irish nationalists, led by poet Patrick Pearse, occupied the General Post Office and declared Irish independence from Great Britain. The English executed 15 rebels, including Pearse, who promptly became a great Irish martyr.

It's the birthday of film and theater critic Stanley Kauffmann, born in New York City (1916), who writes for The New Republic.

It's the birthday of poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren, born in Guthrie, Kentucky (1905). His novel All the King's Men came out in 1946.

It's the birthday of Willem de Kooning, born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (1904). He was 22 when he stowed away on a ship bound for New York and got work there as a house painter. He later became an important abstract expressionist.

It's the birthday of the novelist Anthony Trollope, born in London (1815). His father went through a series of unsuccessful business schemes and nearly ruined the family. It was his mother Frances who saved the family from financial disaster by becoming a writer. At the age of 52, she wrote a travel book called The Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832). It was financially successful, and with the money, she was able to put Anthony through school. He became a postal surveyor in Ireland, and in his spare time, became a very prolific novelist: nearly two books a year, beginning with The Warden (1855). His most popular novel was Barchester Towers (1857), which continues to be read and admired.

On this date in 1800, Congress authorized the creation of the Library of Congress. It was originally intended as a library for the use of the House and Senate, but gradually it expanded to become a national library.

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