Nov. 25, 2005


by Gail Mazur

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Poem: "Ice" by Gail Mazur from Zeppo's First Wife: New and Selected Poems © University of Chicago Press. Reprinted with permission.


In the warming house, children lace their skates,
bending, choked over their thick jackets.

A Franklin stove keeps the place so cozy
it's hard to imagine why anyone would leave,

clumping across the frozen beach to the river.
December's always the same at Ware's Cove,

the first sheer ice, black, then white
and deep until the city sends trucks of men

with wooden barriers to put up the boys'
hockey rink. An hour of skating after school,

of trying wobbly figure-8's, an hour
of distances moved backwards without falling,

then—twilight, the warming house steamy
with girls pulling on boots, their chafed legs

aching. Outside, the hockey players keep
playing, slamming the round black puck

until it's dark, until supper. At night,
a shy girl comes to the cove with her father.

Although there isn't music, they glide
arm in arm onto the blurred surface together,

braced like dancers. She thinks she'll never
be so happy, for who else will find her graceful,

find her perfect, skate with her
in circles outside the emptied rink forever?

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the novelist Helen Hooven Santmyer, born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1895). When she was five years old she moved with her family to the small town of Xenia, Ohio, where she grew up. She was inspired as a young girl by the Xenia Women's Club, an early feminist intellectual organization, to go off to New York and get a job as a secretary for Scribner's magazine, where she met many writers, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But after a few years of living in New York City, and then studying at Oxford, she moved back to Xenia where she was elected to the membership of the Xenia Women's Club that she had so much admired as a little girl.

She was writing all the time, and even published a few novels, but they had little success. It was only after her retirement that Santmyer began to delve into the history of her hometown, eventually writing a collection of essays called Ohio Town: A Portrait of Xenia (1862). Then she began an epic novel about a small town women's group based on her own Women's Club of Xenia. The finished product ...And Ladies of the Club (1982) was more that 1,300 pages long. It was published by the Ohio State Press, and sold about 300 copies.

The book sat on a few library shelves around Ohio, unread for the most part, until the mother of a Hollywood executive happened to read it and she passed it on to her son. He thought the book would make a good mini-series, so he bought the television and movie rights to the novel. It was reissued in a paperback and became a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, reaching number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in 1985. Helen Hoven Santmyer had become a best-selling novelist and literary celebrity at the age of eighty-eight.

It's the birthday of American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, born in Dunfermline, Scotland (1835), the son of a weaver and political radical. He became enormously wealthy in the steel industry and then sold his company and spent the rest of his life giving his fortune away to cultural, educational and scientific institutions for the improvement of mankind.

Over the course of his life, Andrew Carnegie endowed 2,811 libraries and many charitable foundations as well as the internationally famous Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He also bought 7,689 organs for churches. The purpose of the latter gift was, in Carnegie's words, "To lessen the pain of the sermons."

It's the birthday of physician and essayist Lewis Thomas, born in Flushing, New York (1913). He's the author of The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979), The Youngest Science: Notes of a Medicine Watcher (1983), Late Night Thoughts on Mahler's Ninth Symphony (1984).

It's the birthday of baseball player Joe DiMaggio (1914) born in Martinez, California. Joe DiMaggio is remembered as one of baseball's most graceful athletes. Many consider his 56-consecutive-game hitting streak in 1941 as the top baseball feat of all time.

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




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