Jun. 23, 2005

From June to December

by Wendy Cope

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Poem: "From June to December" by Wendy Cope from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis. © Faber and Faber. Reprinted with permission.

From June to December
   Summer Villanelle

You know exactly what to do—
Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh—
I think of little else but you.

It's bliss to have a lover who,
Touching one shoulder, makes me sigh—
You know exactly what to do.

You make me happy through and through,
The way the sun lights up the sky—
I think of little else but you.

I hardly sleep-an hour or two;
I can't eat much and this is why—
You know exactly what to do.

The movie in my mind is blue—
As June runs into warm July
I think of little else but you.

But is it love? And is it true?
Who cares? This much I can't deny:
You know exactly what to do;
I think of little else but you.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's Midsummer Night's Eve, also called St. John's Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It's a time when the hives are full of honey. So the full moon that comes this month was called the "mead moon" because honey was fermented to make mead, which is where the word "honeymoon" comes from. It's a time for lovers. As an old Swedish proverb says, "Midsummer night is not long, but it sets many cradles rocking."

It's the birthday of the playwright Jean Anouilh, born in Bordeaux, France in 1910. His work spanned five decades. His plays include The Lark, The Waltz of the Toreadors, and Becket. Jean Anouilh said, "I am a good maker of plays. I have a trade at my fingertips ... The man who makes his fellows forget their condition for three hours, who makes them forget death, is doing a good and useful job. He need commit himself no further."

It's the birthday of the mathematician Alan Mathison Turing, born in London in 1912. He was a pioneer in the development of the computer. He was a graduate student at Kings College when he wrote a paper on computable numbers, in which he introduced his idea for what was later called the Turing Machine, which could perform step-by-step mathematical operations, reading a series of ones and zeros from a tape, which is the theoretical basis of the way computers work today.

During World War II, he served with the Government Code and Cypher School, where he played a significant part in breaking the German "Enigma" code. He also championed the idea of artificial intelligence. His scientific works were never completed. He was arrested in 1952 for violation of Britain's homosexuality statues. Two years later, he committed suicide.

It's the birthday of the poet Anna Akhmatova, born near Odessa, Russia in 1888. She wrote "Requiem" and "Poem Without a Hero," after her son was arrested and sent to a concentration camp. After her former husband was executed in 1921, she burned many of her poems, and for a time she would not write down new ones, so her friends kept them by memorizing them.

It's the birthday of the novelist Michael Shaara, born in Jersey City, New Jersey (1929). He is the author of Killer Angels, about The Battle of Gettysburg.

And it's the birthday of Alfred Kinsey, in Hoboken, New Jersey, (1894). His Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, published in 1948, created a sensation by shattering many myths about sexual practices, showing that some things considered perversions were practiced by so many people as to be considered almost normal.

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