Jul. 30, 2005


by Ron Padgett

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Poem: "Glow" by Ron Padgett, from You Never Know. © Coffee House Press. Reprinted with permission.


When I wake up earlier than you and you
are turned to face me, face
on the pillow and hair spread around,
I take a chance and stare at you,
amazed in love and afraid
that you might open your eyes and have
the daylights scared out of you.
But maybe with the daylights gone
you'd see how much my chest and head
implode for you, their voices trapped
inside like unborn children fearing
they will never see the light of day.
The opening in the wall now dimly glows
its rainy blue and gray. I tie my shoes
and go downstairs to put the coffee on.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the novelist William H. Gass, born in Fargo, North Dakota (1924). He grew up in the town of Warren, Ohio, which Gass described as "a dismal, industrial town in a down-and-out valley full of steel, smoke, and sad, sullen people."

It was the depression. The Gass family moved from rented house to rented house. His mother was an alcoholic. His father was a bigot. Gass said, "My father was a man who read magazines and newspapers in order to find someone to hate. He'd say terrible things about blacks and Jews ... the depth of his bitterness scared me."

He decided to become a writer, but he knew he'd have trouble making a living writing the books he wanted to write, so he had to support himself as a professor of philosophy.

It took him a long time to come out with his first novel, which was Omensetter's Luck. It came out in 1966. Told in many voices, it's a story about a small 19th Century Ohio town. The book begins, "Now folks today we're going to auction off Missus Pimber's things. I think you all knew Missus Pimber and you know she had some pretty nice things. This is going to be a real fine sale and we have a real fine day for it. It may get hot, though, later on, so we want to keep things moving right along."

It's the birthday of Emily Brontë, born in Yorkshire, England in the village of Thornton (1818). She's the author of Wuthering Heights. She grew up in a family of avid readers and storytellers, she and her sisters. Their mother died when Emily was two. The children were pretty much left to their own devices. Emily was shy and reclusive, and whenever she left home, she got homesick.

Wuthering Heights came out in 1847; the story of a boy from the streets of Liverpool named Heathcliff who's adopted into a wealthy, land-owning family and falls in love with his adopted sister Catherine.

It's the birthday of the economist Thorstein Veblen, (1857), born in Cato, Wisconsin. He gave us the book The Theory of the Leisure Class, in which he introduced the concept of "conspicuous consumption."

It's the birthday of Henry Ford, born on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan (1863). He and his wife built a two-cylinder gas engine in their kitchen sink, and from it, Henry Ford built his first horseless carriage. He later came out with the Model T Ford, and built the Ford Motor Company, which created the assembly line.

Henry Ford cut out an hour of the workday and paid his employees twice as much as other employers. He said, "Every man should make enough money to own a home, a piece of land, and a car." And he gave his workers a five-day week because he didn't think anybody would spend money in the economy if they were working all the time.

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