Jul. 5, 2005

Body Bags (excerpt)

by R. S. Gwynn

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Poem: excerpt of "Body Bags" by R. S. Gwynn, from No Words of Farewell. © Story Line Press. Reprinted with permission.

excerpt of Body Bags

Let's hear it for Dwayne Coburn, who was small
And mean without a single saving grace
Except for stealing-home from second base
Or out of teammates' lockers, it was all
The same to Dwayne. The Pep Club candy sale,
However, proved his downfall. He was held
Briefly on various charges, then expelled
And given a choice: enlist or go to jail.

He finished basic and came home from Bragg
For Christmas on his reassignment leave
With one prize in his pack he thought unique,
Which went off prematurely New Year's Eve.
The student body got the folded flag
And flew it in his memory for a week.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1880, young George Bernard Shaw quit his job at the Edison Telephone Company in London to be a writer full time. He wrote novels. He sat in the British Museum reading room, reading and writing his first five novels—all rejected. He caught smallpox while writing one of them. It took Shaw 10 years before he began to make a living as a writer. He lived with his mother all that time, and she supported him without complaint. He later said, "My mother worked for my living instead of preaching that it was my duty to work for hers; therefore, take off your hat to her and blush."

It's the birthday of one of the most versatile artists of the twentieth century, Jean Cocteau, born in Maison-Lafitte, just outside Paris (1889). He wrote essays, poetry, and novels. He worked on ballets, operas, and movies as well. He was involved in early stages of surrealism and cubism. He was a friend of Picasso's and a friend of Marcel Proust's.

It was on this day in 1921, several members of the Chicago White Sox went on trial for throwing the 1919 World Series. The White Sox players despised their owner Charles Comiskey. He was notoriously stingy. He would offer bonuses for performance and then take them back at the last minute. Gamblers knew that the players were frustrated and angry and offered several of them money to throw the World Series. The night before the series began, a Sox pitcher found $10,000 under the pillow in his hotel bedroom. The next day his first pitch landed between the batter's shoulder blades. The Sox lost the series to the Cincinnati Reds 5 to 3.

Many journalists knew right away that the series had been fixed. One of the accused players, one of the most tragic figures, was Shoeless Joe Jackson, who admitted to taking money, but during the series he didn't make a single error. He also hit the only home run of the series. All of the White Sox players were acquitted for lack of evidence, but the commissioner of baseball banned them from the game for the rest of their lives. None of the gamblers was ever punished.

And it was on this day in 1954, Elvis Presley recorded his first rock and roll song, "That's All Right, Mama." Elvis loved to sing ballads, slow ballads, but at the Sun Studios in Memphis, Sam Phillips persuaded him to do an up-tempo song. A few weeks later, he sang it at a music show at an outdoor park. He was so nervous that he started shaking his leg in rhythm to the music as he sang, and the girls in the audience went crazy.

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