May 5, 2006

Greeting to Spring (Not Without Trepidation)

by Robert Lax

FRIDAY, 5 MAY, 2006
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Poem: "Greeting to Spring (Not Without Trepidation)" by Robert Lax from Tertium Quid. © Stride Publications. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Greeting to Spring (Not Without Trepidation)

Over the back of the Florida basker,
over the froth of the Firth of Forth,
Up from Tahiti and Madagascar,
Lo, the sun walks north.

The first bright day makes sing the slackers
While leaves explode like firecrackers,
The duck flies forth to greet the spring
And sweetly municipal pigeons sing.

Where the duck quacks, where the bird sings,
We will speak of past things

Come out with your marbles, come out with your Croup,
The grass is as green as a Girl Scout troop;
In the Mall the stone acoustics stand
Like a listening ear for the Goldman band.

At an outside table, where the sun's bright glare is,
We will speak of darkened Paris

Meanwhile, like attendants who hasten the hoofs
Of the ponies who trot in the shadow of roofs,
The sun, in his running, will hasten the plan
Of plants and fishes, beast and man.

We'll turn our eyes to the sogging ground
And guess if the earth is cracked or round

Over the plans of the parties at strife,
Over the planes in the waiting north,
Over the average man and his wife,
Lo, the sun walks forth!

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Cinco de Mayo, the Mexican holiday marking the defeat of French invaders at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The Mexicans were ill-equipped and outnumbered two to one, but with their general, Zaragoza, they caused 1,000 French casualties and forced a retreat to the Gulf Coast.

It's the birthday of James Beard, (books by this author) a great food writer and food lover, born in Portland, Oregon (1903). He wrote twenty-three cookbooks. He hated the word "gourmet." He was an advocate for imaginative, well-cooked meals, even though it was the 1950s, the age of convenience food. He taught hands-on classes and he was the first chef to cook on television, in 1945.

He said, "I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around."

It's the birthday of the novelist Kaye Gibbons, (books by this author) born in Bend of the River in Nash County, North Carolina (1960). She grew up in a four-room farmhouse, her father barely supporting the family as a tobacco farmer. The only books in the house were a Bible and a book on cattle castration, but Gibbons found herself obsessed with reading at an early age, walking three miles to the local bookmobile every week. She said, "Books were the most important thing in my life. ... Because I read, I knew that I could get out of that four-room house."

Her mother suffered from depression and committed suicide when Gibbons was ten years old. Her father drank himself to death a year later. She later said, "[It was] the sort of childhood that encourages someone to either become a writer or to rob convenience stores."

She went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and started a novel based loosely on her own childhood, told in the voice of a young Southern girl. That novel, Ellen Foster, came out in 1987 and got great reviews. It begins, "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure out this or that way and run it down through my head until it got easy. ... But I did not kill my daddy. He drank his own self to death the year after the County moved me out."

Gibbons has gone on to write many more novels, and her most recent is a sequel to that first book about Ellen Foster. It's called The Life All Around Me By Ellen Foster (2005). Kaye Gibbons said, "One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that it can be done at home."

It's the birthday of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, (books by this author) born in Copenhagen, Denmark (1813). He said, "Adversity draws men together and produces beauty and harmony in life's relationships, just as the cold of winter produces ice-flowers on the window-panes, which vanish with the warmth."

And he said, "What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music."

It's the birthday of Karl Marx, (books by this author) born in Trier, Prussia (1818). His theory was that the economic system was a perpetual conflict between those who controlled the capital and those who provided the labor. He believed that the conflict would never be resolved peacefully because capitalism was too volatile.

Marx spent the last years of his life in London, where he worked on his last book, Das Kapital (1867) in the reading room of the British Museum. He slowly sank into poverty, having to avoid creditors, pawn his furniture and fight off eviction. When one of his children died of disease, his wife had to borrow money from a neighbor to buy a coffin. When Marx died in 1883, only eleven people came to his funeral.

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