Jul. 24, 2006


by Stanley Kunitz

MONDAY, 24 JULY, 2006
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Poem: "Benediction" By Stanley Kunitz from The Collected Poems. © W. W. Norton & Company. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


God banish from your house
The fly, the roach, the mouse

That riots in the walls
Until the plaster falls;

Admonish from your door
The hypocrite and liar;

No shy, soft, tigrish fear
Permit upon your stair,

Nor agents of your doubt.
God drive them whistling out.

Let nothing touched with evil,
Let nothing that can shrivel

Heart's tenderest frond, intrude
Upon your still, deep blood.

Against the drip of night
God keep all windows tight,

Protect your mirrors from
Surprise, delirium,

Admit no trailing wind
Into your shuttered mind

To plume the lake of sleep
With dreams. If you must weep

God give you tears, but leave
you secrecy to grieve,

And islands for your pride,
And love to nest in your side.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of French novelist Alexandre Dumas (books by this author), born in Villers-Cotterêts, France (1802). He wrote swashbuckling adventure novels like The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844). He started writing fiction at a time when publishers used fiction to sell newspapers. When his first novel appeared in a newspaper, it generated five thousand new subscriptions.

It's the birthday of mystery novelist John D. MacDonald (books by this author), born in Sharon, Pennsylvania (1916). He's famous for novels such as The Deep Blue Good-By (1964) and Nightmare in Pink (1964), featuring Travis McGee, a beach bum detective who lives on a houseboat that he won in a poker game.

It's the birthday of Robert Graves (books by this author), born in Wimbledon, England (1895). Over the course of his life, he wrote almost one hundred and fifty books of fiction, essays and poetry. He's best known for his World War I memoir Goodbye to All That, which he published in 1929. That same year, his marriage began to break up when he met an American poet named Laura Riding, and fell completely in love. He loved her so much that when she tried to commit suicide by jumping out the window of an apartment building, he jumped out the window after her. They both survived. His marriage ended, and he moved with Riding to the Spanish island of Majorca.

It's the birthday of the famous aviator Amelia Earhart, born in Atchison, Kansas (1898). She was a tomboy. Her parents let her wear pants when she was growing up, even though it was not acceptable yet for women to do so. She spent her childhood hiking, fishing, and exploring caves. She built a small wooden roller coaster in her backyard and practiced riding on it without falling off.

She had been studying medicine when she went to her first air show in California, and it was then that she decided to become a pilot. She was the first person to fly from California to Hawaii, and she tried to fly around the circumference of the globe. She was photogenic and well-spoken, so the aviation industry used her as a symbol to improve its image and to reassure women that flying was safe. Unfortunately, on her second attempt to fly around the globe she was lost somewhere over the Pacific. Her body has never been recovered.

It's the birthday of Zelda Fitzgerald (books by this author), born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama (1900). She met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a military dance, and he stood out from the crowd in his fancy Brooks Brothers uniform and cream-colored boots. Zelda said, "He smelled like new goods."

They married in 1920. Their marriage was difficult. Scott struggled with alcoholism and Zelda struggled with schizophrenia, but they were the quintessential literary couple of the Jazz Age. They were so famous that William Randolph Hearst hired a reporter whose only job was to cover their activities.

Dorothy Parker said, "[They] looked like they'd just stepped out of the sun."

It was on this day in 1847 that the Mormon leader Brigham Young led his people into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. He was leading a group of Mormons from Illinois to find a new settlement in the West where they might not be bothered. Brigham Young had gotten sick during the journey and was being carried prostrate in a wagon. But when they reached the edge of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, the wagon stopped as it came to a natural lookout point. According to legend, Brigham Young was able to describe the scene below without looking. Then he sat up and looked out at the valley and said, "This is the right place. Drive on."

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




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