Dec. 18, 2005

Criss Cross Apple Sauce

by Thomas Lux

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Criss Cross Apple Sauce" by Thomas Lux from New & Selected Poems. © Houghton Mifflin. Reprinted with permission.

Criss Cross Apple Sauce

Criss cross apple sauce
do me a favor and get lost
while you're at it drop dead
then come back without a head

my daughter sings for me
when I ask her what she learned in school today
as we drive from her mother's house to mine.
She knows I like some things that rhyme.
She sings another she knows I like:
Trick of treat, trick or treat
give me something good to eat
if you don't I don't care
I'll put apples in your underwear
Apples in your underwear—I like that more
than Lautremont's umbrella
on the operating table, I say to her
and ask her if she sees the parallel.
She says no but she prefers the apples too.
Sitting on a bench
nothing to do
along come some boys—p.u., p.u., p.u.

my daughter sings
my daughter with her buffalo-sized heart,
my daughter brilliant and kind,
my daughter singing
as we drive from her mother's house to mine.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the filmmaker Steven Spielberg, born in Cincinnati, Ohio (1946). His parents had a difficult marriage and eventually got separated. Spielberg escaped from all the tension in the house by making amateur movies with his father's Super-8 camera. He made two movies about World War II, and a movie about a UFO invasion, starring his sisters as victims. His mother helped with special effects. He got a local movie house to show one of his films when he was eighteen, and he made $500 in one night.

Though he applied twice to the film program at the University of Southern California, he didn't get in, and he ended up going for a degree in English from California State University at Long Beach. One day, he was taking a tour of Universal Studios when he slipped by security, found an abandoned janitors' closet, cleaned it up, and turned it into an office. He discovered that if he wore a suit and tie he could walk right past the security guards at the front gate, and he began coming in to his office every day. He made a short silent movie that caught the attention of some executives, and that got him a contract to make TV movies. He was only twenty-one years old.

Spielberg's first feature length movie The Sugarland Express (1974) got good reviews, but it was a box office disappointment. For his next project, he started working on a movie about a seaside town being terrorized by a man-eating shark. It was an incredibly difficult movie to make. The robot shark they used kept breaking down. They had to shoot almost half the movie on a boat. They went over schedule and over budget. The producers of the film had worried about hiring such a young director, and their fears seemed to be coming true. As the work on the film dragged on and on, Spielberg began to worry that his career as a filmmaker might be over.

But when it finally came out in 1975, Jaws made more money than any other movie had ever made up to that point in history. It's often been called the first blockbuster, because it was the first summer movie that teenagers went back to see again and again throughout the whole summer that it was released. Ever since Jaws, Hollywood studios have been releasing action packed movies every summer, trying to duplicate Spielberg's success.

Seven years later, Spielberg topped the success of Jaws with his movie, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) about a young boy who's recovering from the breakup of his parents' marriage when he befriends an alien that has been left behind by his spaceship. Spielberg has called E.T. his most personal movie. He said, "It's about how I felt when my parents broke up... I responded by escaping into my imagination to shut down all my nerve endings... I dreamed about going to space or having space come to me."

Today Steven Spielberg is arguably one of the most popular entertainers in history. Three of his movies are among the top ten highest grossing films of all time.

It's the birthday of the British writer known as Saki, born Hector Hugh Munro in Akyab, Burma (1870). He wrote short, whimsical stories about the British upper class, and died during World War I.

It's the birthday of playwright Abe Burrows, born in New York City (1910). In 1950 he teamed up with composer Frank Loesser to write the musical Guys and Dolls, and also wrote Can-Can (1953) and Silk Stockings (1955), and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961), which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

It's the birthday of hymn writer Charles Wesley, born in Epworth, England (1708). He wrote more than 6000 hymns, including "Hark! the herald angels sing," and "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing."

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show