Sep. 10, 2005

The Man Who Finds That His Son Has Become a Thief

by Raymond Souster

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Poem: "The Man Who Finds That His Son Has Become a Thief" by Raymond Souster from Collected Poems © Oberon Press.

The Man Who Finds That His Son Has Become a Thief

Coming into the store at first angry
At the accusation, believing in
The word of his boy who has told him:
I didn't steal anything, honest.
Then becoming calmer, seeing that anger
Will not help in the business, listening painfully
As the other's evidence unfolds, so painfully slow.
Then seeing gradually that evidence
Almost as if tighten slowly around the neck
Of his son, at first vaguely circumstantial, then gathering damage,
Until there is present the unmistakable odour of guilt
Which seeps now into the mind and lays its poison.
Suddenly feeling sick and alone and afraid,
As if an unseen hand had slapped him in the face
For no reason whatsoever: wanting to get out
Into the street, the night, the darkness, anywhere to hide
The pain that must show in the face to these strangers, the fear.
It must be like this.
It could hardly be otherwise.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1981 that Pablo Picasso's famous painting "Guernica" was returned to Spain to hang in the Prado Museum in Madrid. The painting depicts the suffering in the city of Guernica, the capitol of Basque Spain, after a German bombardment in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso exhibited the painting in Paris, but then sent it to New York and refused to allow it to be shown in Spain until the rule of General Franco ended. Pablo Picasso, who said: "Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy."

It's the birthday of the Austrian poet, playwright, and novelist Franz Werfel, born in Prague (1890). His experiences on the Russian front in WWI turned him into a determined pacifist. He is known for his novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1934), about Armenian resistance against the Turks, and The Song of Bernadette (1942), written to fulfill a pledge he made to Saint Bernadette of Lourdes: that he would write about her if he ever escaped Nazi dominated France and reached the United States. He married Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler's renowned widow, in 1929, and she accompanied him in his flight from the Nazis, first to France and then to America.

It's the birthday of the American physicist Arthur Holly Compton, born in Wooster, Ohio (1892). He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1927 for his work with C.T.R. Wilson on electromagnetic radiation, which, they confirmed, behaves both like a wave and like a particle. During WWII, he helped to initiate the Manhattan Project, which culminated in the development of the atomic bomb.

It's the birthday of the English essayist, critic, and novelist Cyril Vernon Connolly, born in London (1903). In 1940, he founded Horizon magazine and was its editor until 1949. He is also known for his book of introspective thoughts and quotations, The Unquiet Grave (1945) and for his novel The Rock Pool (1936). Cyril Connolly, who said: "Imprisoned in every fat man, a thin one is wildly signaling to be let out."

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