Oct. 24, 2005


by Jennifer Gresham

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Poem: "Anatomy" by Jennifer Gresham, from Diary of a Cell. © Steel Toe Books, Bowling Green. Reprinted with permission.


We did not expect a young woman.
her skin still tight, but cold.
We were afraid to touch, her features
not the kind to beckon young men:
her nose a mountain on the plain
of her face, her neck and arms
thin as dried reeds. But here,
hands sheathed in latex,
our scalpel blades disappeared

into her skin, until we pushed back
the clean lines of dermis like curtains,
her small muscles and organs revealed.
Awestruck, the Latin rose to our lips
like a sigh: the graceful length
of her gracilis, her shapely gluteus medius,
the sweep of the orbicularis oris
beneath her stiff, unsmiling lips.

We were never satisfied again
to kiss the surface of a pretty face.
At last we'd learned the secrets
of the deep, become enamored
with what lay beneath.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of playwright Moss Hart, born in New York City (1904). In his lifetime he was known as the prince of Broadway. He co-wrote plays such as You Can't Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and he directed the musicals My Fair Lady and Camelot. Over the course of his career he collaborated with George S. Kaufman, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Judy Garland, and Julie Andrews.

His father was a cigar maker who lost his business when the mechanical cigar roller was invented, but his eccentric Aunt Kate began taking him to the theater when he was seven years old. It later turned out that she suffered from mental illness and had a habit of setting fires in the theaters she visited. But all Hart knew was that his aunt was taking him to Broadway on a regular basis, even when he should have been in school. He always credited her for getting him hooked on the theater.

By the time he was a teenager, Broadway was at its height. There were 90 major theaters in New York City, putting on an average of 225 new plays or musicals every year. Plays and musicals were still more popular forms of entertainment than movies. Broadway was the most glamorous place in America, and Moss Hart wanted nothing more than to be a part of it. Unfortunately, he had to drop out of high school and take a job as a clothing folder at a garment factory to support his family. But he was so enterprising that he got his boss to let him write and produce a musical review to show off the factory's latest clothing line.

A few years later, Hart got a job as the entertainment director for a series of summer resorts along the Borscht Belt in the Catskills. He later said that keeping city folks sufficiently entertained when they are confronted with a few weeks of nature was the toughest job he ever had, but he learned a lot about drama from the experience.

He wanted more than anything to write a big important play, like his idol Eugene O'Neill, but producers kept turning him down, telling him that they wanted comedies. So Hart decided to give them what they wanted, and the result was his play Once in a Lifetime. The legendary playwright George S. Kaufman agreed to help rewrite the script. The two of them worked on it for months, showing rough versions to audiences and noting what made people laugh and what didn't. When it came out in 1930, the play was a big hit and Moss Hart became rich and famous almost overnight. He was just 25 years old.

Hart is best known for co-writing You Can't Take It With You (1936) with Kaufman. It's a play about the strange Sycamore family—whose home is full of snakes, playwriting, ballet dancing, Russian Royalty, candy and fireworks. It is still one of the most popular plays for amateur productions. In 2004 alone, it was produced by more than 500 amateur theaters.

It's the birthday of the man who created Batman: Bob Kane, born in the Bronx (1916). He's one of the few boys in American history ever encouraged by his father to become a cartoonist. His father worked as an engraver for a newspaper, and he learned that cartoonists were being paid quite well. He knew his son had a talent for drawing, so he told young Bob to work on cartoons. By the time he was 16, Bob Kane was selling his work for $5 a page.

Batman is the alter-ego of multimillionaire Bruce Wayne and one of the few superheroes in the history of comic books who doesn't have any special powers.

It's the birthday of Antony van Leeuwenhoek, born in Delft, the Netherlands (1632). He studied to be a draper's assistant in Amsterdam. He became a draper and haberdasher, and eventually took an administrative job in the government. But in his work as a draper, he got the chance to use a magnifying lens to count the number of threads in a piece of cloth, and the experience got him interested in lenses. He began to spend all his spare time learning how to grind out lenses and use them in combination with each other to look at smaller and smaller things. Over his lifetime, he ground over 400 lenses and built many microscopes, using techniques that he kept secret.

Eventually, he developed the first microscope that could show him things too small for the human eye, and he became the first person to observe bacteria. He called the animals he saw in his microscope animalcules. He was also the first to see red blood cells.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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