Jul. 6, 2005

Morning and Night

by Jeff Hardin

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Poem: "Morning and Night" by Jeff Hardin, from Fall Sanctuary. © Story Line Press, Ashland, Oregon. Reprinted with permission.

Morning and Night

Beyond our town the bottomlands flood each year.
Someone's son goes walking, never comes back.
Weeks pass. Town square talk reclaims the days.

Tonight I hear the rain remember roots
and think of elders gone the long way back to dust.
What we know by heart we doubt the most.

I have a wish to be at someone's door,
unannounced but welcomed anyway, ushered in
to dine and sing and sleep the sleep of kings.

But this is a world of slaughtered saints.
Random shots are fired, while morning and night
our mothers turn their faces toward the sleeping hills.

So quickly has the century come and gone.
For a while let's ask each other simple questions
and make up answers that can keep us home tonight.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1535, Sir Thomas More was executed for treason as a result of his refusal to recognize King Henry VIII as head of the Anglican Church. He was the author of a novel called Utopia, about the perfect society. He was a passionately religious man who wore a hair shirt and flogged himself in penance almost every night of his life.

He was a diplomat—a favorite of the king. He was also one of the harshest prosecutors of heretics in the history of England. His downfall came when, in the opinion of Sir Thomas More, the king himself became a heretic. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope declared the second marriage was unlawful, and so Henry VIII declared that he was breaking from the Catholic Church. He would now be the head of the Anglican Church.

More refused to sign an oath in support of the king's decision, so he was thrown in the Tower of London, and on this day he was led to the scaffold on Tower Hill. His executioners asked him if he had any final words. He said he forgave them for their actions and looked forward to the day when they would all meet in heaven.

It was on this day in 1862, Samuel Clemens first started publishing his stories in the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada. It was his first writing job. It was where he first used the name Mark Twain.

He had been a riverboat pilot apprentice on the Mississippi. He got a job working for his brother, who worked for the governor of Nevada, and that's what got him to Virginia City. He tried mining for a while, but it was hard work and he didn't like it. He was running out of money, so he started writing for the Territorial Enterprise, and his first story appeared on this day in 1862.

It's the birthday of philosopher Peter Singer, born in Melbourne, Australia (1946). His book, Animal Liberation, argued that animals have the same right to be treated humanely as we do, because they are capable of suffering. That book is generally credited with starting the animal rights movement.

It's the birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama, born in Tibet (1936), who's written several dozen collections of Buddhist teachings.

It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Eleanor Clark, born in Los Angeles (1913). One of her best-known books is a book about oysters, The Oysters of Locmariaquer, in which she said, "If you don't love life you can't enjoy an oyster; there is a shock of freshness to it and intimations of the ages of man, some piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes."

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