Feb. 11, 2006

People Who Take Care

by Nancy Henry


by David Bengtson

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Poems: "People Who Take Care" by Nancy Henry from Hard. © MuscleHead Press. Reprinted with permission. And "Aurora" by David Bengtson from Broken Lines. © Juniper Books. Reprinted with permission.

People Who Take Care

People who take care of people
get paid less than anybody
people who take care of people
are not worth much
except to people who are
sick, old, helpless, and poor
people who take care of people
are not important to most other people
are not respected by many other people
come and go without much fuss
unless they donít show up
when needed
people who make more money
tell them what to do
never get shit on their hands
never mop vomit or wipe tears
donít stand in danger
of having plates thrown at them
sharing every cold
observing agonies
they cannot tell at home
people who take care of people
have a secret
that sees them through the double shift
that moves with them from room to room
that keeps them on the floor
sometimes they fill a hollow
no one else can fill
sometimes through the shit
and blood and tears
they go to a beautiful place, somewhere
those clean important people
have never been.


     Today in the paper he reads about a woman named Aurora who
had told her husband, Raymond, that she wanted to be buried with
her beloved car. So Raymond made arrangements with the local
funeral home to purchase a row of fourteen plots, which he believed
to be more than enough for a 1976 Cadillac convertible. And he told
the backhoe operator to dig one long trench the length of those four—
teen plots and plenty wide-a trench with a dirt ramp at one end. For
Raymond, himself, would take the red Cadillac, white top down, for
its last ride from the church to the cemetery, where the pallbearers
would balance the casket across the trunk and backseat.
     On that morning, as the first light spread its white wings across
the horizon, Raymond slipped the key into the ignition, started the
engine, pulled on the headlights, and transported his beloved Aurora
on the back of her favorite car, its golden lights pushing back the
darkness of this long highway.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1778 that Voltaire returned to Paris after living in exile for twenty-eight years in protest against France's religious fanaticism. He was a crusader for human rights and one of the most respected people in Europe.

When he was allowed to return home more than three hundred people came to visit him his first day in the city. One of those visitors was Benjamin Franklin, fresh from helping to lead the revolution in the United States of America. Franklin had brought his grandson with him and asked Voltaire to bless the little boy.

When Voltaire rode in his carriage to the theater to see the premiere of his last play, his carriage could barely move through the streets packed with crowds of his admirers. When he got to the theater the audience cheered him and an actor placed a crown of laurel on his head. Voltaire died two months later. Because of his controversial religious views, the Catholic Church refused to bury him in holy ground, so his body had to be smuggled out of the city and buried in a cemetery run by a liberal priest.

Voltaire's body was moved to the Pantheon in 1791 after the French Revolution. His epitaph reads, "Poet, philosopher, historian, he gave wings to the human spirit and prepared us to be free."

It's the birthday of the writer Joy Williams, born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts (1944). Williams went to college and grad school in the Midwest but she decided she needed to live someplace more mysterious and exotic so she moved to a trailer park in northern Florida surrounded by swamps and alligators and snakes. The result was her first novel, State of Grace (1973), which got great reviews.

Williams has gone on to write many more books, including the novel The Quick and the Dead (2001) and the story collection Honored Guest (2004).

Joy Williams claims that she cannot write unless she's chewing gum. She said, "Big Red is great. Or Wrigley's or Trident, or bubble gum. I'm very faithful to my gum. Some people just chew it for a minute or two. I chew it and chew it and chew it. ... I use it up. I'm a dutiful person."

It's the birthday of novelist and travel writer Pico Iyer, born to Indian parents in Oxford, England (1957). He went to graduate school at Harvard, and during the summers he got a job writing for a budget travel guidebook. He got a job working for Time magazine. His first book, Video Nights in Katmandu, came out in 1988.

Pico Iyer said, "The less conscious one is of being 'a writer,' the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing should ... be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent ... and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger."

It's the birthday of novelist Sidney Sheldon, born in Chicago (1917). He's the author of popular novels such as The Sky is Falling (2001) and The Other Side of Midnight (1990). Each of his novels has hit number one on The New York Times best-seller list.

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
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