Oct. 12, 2005

It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind

by Jim Moore

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Poem: "It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind" by Jim Moore from Lightning at Dinner. © Graywolf Press. Reprinted with permission.

It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind

but that no one will love as I did
the oak tree out my boyhood window,
the mother who set herself
so stubbornly against life,
the sister with her serious frown
and her wish for someone at her side,
the father with his dreamy gaze
and his left hand idly buried
in the fur of his dog.
And the dog herself,
that mournful look and huge appetite,
her need for absolute stillness
in the presence of a bird.
I know how each of them looks
when asleep. And I know how it feels
to fall asleep among them.
No one knows that but me,
No one knows how to love the way I do.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's right about now that Oktoberfest gets underway in Munich—it's the biggest festival in the world. Nearly six million people attend. They drink more than ten million pints of beer. Oktoberfest has its origins in the big wedding party that happened on this day in 1810. Crown Prince Louis of Bavaria was marrying Princess Therese of Saxonia, and they held a big party out in front of the city gates.

It's the birthday of Robert Fitzgerald, born in Geneva, New York (1910). He wanted to become a journalist in the big city, but he never could learn to write fast enough. And so he became a classics professor at Harvard and produced the most beautiful English translation of The Iliad and The Odyssey in the last century.

It's the birthday of the novelist Richard Price, born in New York City (1949). He grew up in a housing project in the Bronx in a tough neighborhood full of street gangs. But Price didn't take part in gangs. He suffered from a mild form of cerebral palsy. He said, "I was a member of the Goldberg gang—we walked down the street doing algebra."

He wrote his first novel, The Wanderers (1974), about a group of teenagers trying to make it out of the Bronx, and it was a big success.

Price went off to Hollywood to try to write screenplays, then came back to the East Coast and started to hang out with cops in Jersey City. He spent three years following the cops around, getting to know some of the drug dealers as well, carrying a notebook, writing down everything he saw and heard. The result was his novel Clockers (1992) about a young drug dealer named Strike who's trying to make enough money to get out of the drug business without getting killed or arrested. It was one of the first works of fiction that tried to describe the crack cocaine trade from the point of view of the dealers, and it was a huge success.

Richard Price said, "I want to create an awareness that certain people exist. Let me just put them on paper so the reader can see who they are."

It's the birthday of the playwright and novelist Alice Childress, born in Charleston, South Carolina (1916). She's best known for her novels A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich and A Short Walk.

It's the birthday of the psychologist and author Robert Coles, born in Boston (1929). He had embarked on a career as a child psychologist, but one day in New Orleans in 1960, he saw a white mob surrounding a six-year-old black girl named Ruby Bridges, and he decided that someone needed to write about a world where that could happen. He wrote a book called Children of Crisis (1967). And in 2003 he published a book called Bruce Springsteen's America: The People Listening, a Poet Singing.

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