Feb. 24, 2006

In the Yellow Head of a Tulip

by Malena Morling

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "In the Yellow Head of a Tulip" by Malena Morling from Astoria. © University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with permission.

In the Yellow Head of a Tulip

In the yellow head of a tulip
in the sound of the wind entangled in the forest
in the haphazard combination of things
for sale on the sidewalk
an iron next to a nail-clipper next to a can of soup
next to a starling's feather
in the silence inside of stone
in tea in music in desire in butter in torture
in space that flings itself out in the universe
in every direction at once without end
despite walls despite grates and ceilings
and bulletproof glass
the sun falls though without refracting
in the wind hanging out its own sheets
on all the empty clotheslines
in the bowels of rats
in their tiny moving architectures
in a world that is always moving
in those who are unable to speak but know how to listen
in your mother who is afraid of her own thoughts
in her fear in her death
in her own derelict loneliness
in the garden late at night
between the alder tree and the ash
she rocks herself to sleep in the hammock
a little drunk and wayward
in everything she is that you are not
in the well of the skull
in the fish that you touch
in the copper water
in its breath of water
in your breath, the single bubble rising
that could be you
that could be me
that could be nothing

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Wilhelm Karl Grimm, born in Hanau, Germany (1786). Along with his older brother Jacob, Wilhelm Grimm helped publish the collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales (1812), the first collection of folklore in modern publishing history.

Of the two brothers, Wilhelm was more romantic and literary. Jacob did most of the theorizing about folklore and Wilhelm did most of the actual footwork. At first, the story collecting did not go well. The idea was to find ordinary peasants around the countryside to tell their stories, but when Wilhelm went on his first expedition, the peasants were too intimidated to talk to him. In a letter back to Jacob, Wilhelm wrote, "The fairy tale collecting is going along wretchedly."

Ultimately, Wilhelm had to ask friends and family to help in the collecting. And it was Wilhelm who realized that the best people to help him gather folk stories were women because it was women who did most of the storytelling in the first place. It was common for women to gather together and exchange stories for entertainment.

So Wilhelm called upon the six daughters of his next door neighbor to help in the project. They were all eager to do so, but the best collector was a pretty young woman named Dortchen Wild. She and Wilhelm would meet together on a regular basis, often in a nice spot in the countryside, and she would tell him the stories she'd heard from memory while he wrote them down. They later got married. Among the stories she contributed to the final collection were "The Six Swans" and "Hansel and Gretel."

It is the birthday of a poet who's famous in part for his disappearance, Weldon Kees, born in Beatrice, Nebraska (1914). His first book of poems The Last Man (1940) was a hit. He moved to New York City and began attending parties with literary critics like Edmund Wilson and Lionel Trilling. But he never felt comfortable in that society.

Then he got into painting, and some of his works hung alongside Picasso in an exhibition at the Whitney. Then he moved to San Francisco, where he began making experimental films and he got involved with the Beat scene.

Then, on July 19, 1955, Kees's Plymouth Savoy was found on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge with the keys in the ignition. When his friends went to search his apartment all they found was the cat he had named Lonesome and a pair of red socks in the sink. His sleeping bag was missing and so was his savings account book. He left no note. No one is sure if Weldon Kees jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge that day or if he went to Mexico.

It's the birthday of poet, novelist, and short story writer Maxine Chernoff, born in Chicago, Illinois (1952). She's the author of the short story collection Signs of Devotion (1993) and the novels American Heaven (1996) and Boy in Winter (1999).

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