Jul. 27, 2005

Willy Loman

by Edwin Romond

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Poem: "Willy Loman" by Edwin Romond, from Dream Teaching. © Grayson Books, West Hartford, Connecticut. Reprinted with permission.

Willy Loman

After I hit 50
I stayed
in the back
of my room
during Death
of a Salesman
Some mornings
it was too much to see
what comes
with the territory
of dreams
ringing up a zero
and I could not
let my class
catch their teacher
in tears
as you drove
your life
to a dead end
while I clutched
the script
like a mirror.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. It was a war that began in June 1950 when North Korea invaded the south. Almost 35,000 Americans were killed in the conflict, more than 5,000 captured or went missing. A corporal in the 1st Marine Division named Anthony Ebron said, "Those last few days were pretty bloody. Each time we thought the war was over we'd go out and fight again. The day it ended we shot off so much artillery that the ground shook. Then, that night, the noise just stopped. We knew it was over."

Harry Truman said that if he had signed the same armistice, the Republicans would have drawn and quartered him, but Dwight D. Eisenhower had run for president on the platform that he would end the war, and when he was elected, that's what he did.

It was on this day in 1940 that Bugs Bunny made his debut in a cartoon called "A Wild Hare." Warner Brothers' writers and animators set out to make a rabbit who would be the epitome of cool. They modeled bugs on Groucho Marx with a carrot instead of a cigar. Mel Blanc gave him a Brooklyn accent. He was a nonchalant rabbit who chewed on his carrot in the face of all of his enemies and he was famous for the line, "What's up, doc?" which he used in that first cartoon when he met Elmer Fudd who was hunting rabbits.

As America entered World War II, Bugs Bunny became the most popular cartoon character in America, always defeating his enemies through sheer cleverness, oftentimes as a quick change artist.

It's the birthday of the novelist Bharati Mukherjee, born in Calcutta (1940). She is the author of many novels, including The Holder of the World and Desirable Daughters.

She grew up in a wealthy Brahmin family, surrounded by servants and bodyguards. She wanted to be a writer from the time she was a child. She had read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. One night her father had a group of Americans over for dinner. He said, "I want my daughter to be a writer. Where do I send her?" They said the Iowa Writer's Workshop, so that's where she went and became an American citizen.

It's the birthday of Joseph Mitchell, born in Fairmont, North Carolina (1908). He was a reporter for the New Yorker magazine who wrote about eccentric people living on the fringe in New York City: gypsies, the homeless, fishmongers, and a band of Mohawk Indians who had no fear of heights and so they worked as riveters on skyscrapers and bridges. Most of his journalism is collected in the book Up in the Old Hotel.

It's the birthday of Elizabeth Hardwick, born in Lexington, Kentucky (1916). She's the author of novels such as The Ghostly Lover and The Simple Truth and one of the founders of the New York Review of Books, dedicated to, as she said, "the unusual, the difficult, the lengthy, the intransigent, and, above all, the interesting."

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