Jun. 29, 2005

Visit with the Newlyweds

by Rebecca McClanahan

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Poem: "Visit with the Newlyweds" by Rebecca McClanahan from Mrs. Houdini, Poems of Rebecca McClanahan. © University Presses of Florida. Reprinted with permission.

Visit with the Newlyweds

She does not know how white her neck,
or how naked. He cannot pass her
without touching. It is summer,
their cotton clothes soft as gauze.
The relatives have given gifts
they will grow into. China teacups.
Glass birds. A clock with a second hand.
I have brought Sweet Williams.
She is amazed something so pink
can bloom every year without planting.
Yes, I answer. Eleven years for us.
Eleven? she asks and looks at the clock
As if everything were told in hours.
Upstairs by their bed, the wedding pillow.
Every night they marry again.
I want to tell them how crowded
the bed will become, how soon
he will sleep with her mother.
The bride yawns, her eyes
turning back the sheet.
Back home the sheets are thin,
the roses worn smooth
beneath bodies so familiar
we wear our skin like clothes.
You touch me and I move to lower
the straps I pretend are there.
Some nights I forget we are married.
Some nights it is all I know.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the aviator, the author of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, born in Lyons, France in 1900. In 1935, he and a friend entered a contest to break the record for the fastest flight from Paris to Saigon. They crashed 200 miles into the Libyan desert with no water or food, and survived for three days before they were rescued by a Bedouin. Saint-Exupery wrote about it in his book, Wind, Sand and Stars.

The Little Prince is also narrated by a man who has crashed in the desert. It's a kind of fable about a little prince who visits earth from his own planet, where he keeps a single rose that he loves.

Saint-Exupery insisted on serving in the Air Force during World War II, even though he was too old to fly. He flew his last mission in 1944 and was reported missing after a reconnaissance flight. He said, "War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus."

It was on this day in 1921, Edith Wharton became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence, which opens, "On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York."

It's the birthday of actress, playwright and director JoAnne Akalaitis, born in Chicago (1937), who, along with her then husband Philip Glass, was a founder of the theater company Mabou Mines which staged many productions throughout the '70s and the '80s.

It's the birthday of the composer, librettist, and lyricist Frank Loesser, New York City (1910). As a young composer, he had the first big hit song of World War II, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." He won the Pulitzer Prize for his musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He also wrote Guys and Dolls and Where's Charley? It was Frank Loesser who said, "Loud is good."

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