Sep. 2, 2005

Another Postponement of Destruction

by Henry Taylor

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Poem: "Another Postponement of Destruction," by Henry Taylor, from Understanding Fiction © Louisiana State University Press. Reprinted with permission.

Another Postponement of Destruction

Banging out the kitchen door, I kicked
before I saw it a thick glass baking dish
I'd set outside for dogs the night before.
It skidded to the top step, teetered, tipped
into an undulating slide from step
to step, almost stopped halfway down, then lunged
on toward concrete, and I froze to watch it
splinter when it hit. Instead, it kissed
the concrete like a skipping stone, and rang
to rest in frost-stiffened grass. Retrieving it,
I suddenly felt my neck-cords letting go
of something like a mask of tragedy.
I washed the dish and put it in its place,
then launched myself into a rescued day.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the anniversary of the independence of Vietnam in 1945. The region had been a French colony for decades, but during WWII, Japan conquered the French forces there and took control. In August, 1945, though, when the Allies defeated Japan, there was a sudden power vacuum in Vietnam, and the Communist Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh moved to fill it. He'd fought alongside the US during the war, and on September 2, the day WWII officially ended, he appeared in front of a crowd in Hanoi's Ba Dinh Square and used lines lifted from the American Declaration of Independence—and proclaimed Vietnam a free state: He said, "All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights of life, liberty, and happiness..." But the French weren't willing to let Vietnam go that easily. They moved back into the southern part of the country, and war broke out the next year between the French and Ho Chi Minh's Communist army. It ended eight years later, in 1954, with a French defeat and the country's division along the 17th Parallel into South, and Communist North, Vietnam, and then began the American chapter.

George Gershwin finished his opera Porgy and Bess on this day in 1935. The opera was based on a true story about a handicapped black man named Goatcart Sammy who'd been arrested in Charleston, South Carolina, for attempted murder.

It was on this day in 1901, that Vice-President Teddy Roosevelt came to the Minnesota State Fair and, in a speech before several thousand people, outlined his view of America's new role in world affairs: He used an old African proverb and said that "America must speak softly but carry a big stick."

It's the birthday in St. Louis, 1850, of the journalist and poet Eugene Field, best known for his children's poems, "Little Boy Blue" and "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod."

It's the anniversary of the Great Fire of London in 1666, which began around 1 a.m. in the King's bakery, on Pudding Lane. The buildings in medieval London were nearly all wooden and the fire quickly spread to the wharves on the Thames River, where oil and hemp, hay, and timber were stored. There the fire exploded, and over the next three days destroyed an area nearly two miles square in central London, though only six persons died. A man named John Evelyn wrote in his diary the next night: "Oh the miserable and calamitous spectacle! The sky was like the top of a burning oven, and the light seen 40 miles round about for many nights. God grant mine eyes may never behold the like, who now saw 10,000 houses all in one flame; the noise and cracking and thunder of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches, was like a hideous storm. London was, but is no more!

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