Nov. 1, 2006

The Marriage-Bed

by Michael Simms

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Poem: "The Marriage-Bed" by Michael Simms, from The Happiness of Animals. © Monkey Sea Editions. Reprinted with permission.

The Marriage-Bed

                        for Eva

The marriage-bed is the center of happiness,
            a point from which all things ripple outward,
            a nest from which all things learn to fly.
It is the sign of return, part of the great rhythm
            of the seasons and of the years.
It is the dream of return, the strength and faith
            that sing of home.
It is the wren's nest woven of twigs and string,
            the swallow's nest of saliva and mud.
It is what we return to, as migratory birds
            passing over marshes and fields
            dream of the end of the journey.
It is what frightens night-devils away,
            even in winter.
It is the tree that grows through the house,
            the hollow of the tree that has never known death.
It is the crystal of all feeling, the flower of all
            understanding, the small containing the large.
It is the nautilus growing its many chambers of love.
It is the sudden outburst of one who has long been silent.
It is the idea that a calla lily can be shaped
            like a wineglass on a long green stem.
It is the heart-stone.
It is the name of all names
            that thinks it is a star and a rose.
It is a conch-shell rough on the outside,
            pearly in its intimacy.
It is a snail rolling over and over
            building a staircase.
It is an animal, an almond, a repose.
It is an oyster opening in the full of the moon.
It is a mouth telling a secret.
It is a kiln where clay battles fire.
It is the simple happiness of sleeping on a boat.
These are the walls we've pressed back into a circle
            in the shape of our merged bodies
And it will take a long time for the waves
            spreading from the center of our intimacy
            to reach the ends of the world.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the sports writer Grantland Rice, (books by this author) born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (1880). The most popular sports writer of his day, he wrote an estimated 67 million words in his 53-year career. In 1925, when other newspapermen were happy with a weekly salary of $50, Grantland Rice was making $1,000 a week, about the same as Babe Ruth.

It was Grantland Rice who wrote the lines: "For when the One Great Scorer comes / To write against your name, / He marks—not that you won or lost—/ But how you played the game."

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Stephen Crane, (books by this author) born in Newark, New Jersey (1871). As a young man, he considered becoming a professional baseball player He played catcher on his prep school team. At the time, baseball catchers wore almost no protective gear, and the catcher's mitt was basically a gardening glove with a little extra padding. Stephen Crane became famous within his prep school league for being able to catch anything, even barehanded. One of his teammates said, "He played baseball with fiendish glee."

Crane had started cutting classes to spend all his time in New York City, and he was fascinated by what he found there. He began writing for New York City tabloids while he was still a teenager. His first novel was Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893). Then, after reading a series of reminiscences of Civil War veterans published in newspapers, Crane decided to write a Civil War story himself. The result was his novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895), the story of Henry Fleming, who signs up for the 304th New York regiment, hoping to experience the glory of battle that he's read about in school.

The Red Badge of Courage made Stephen Crane famous, but he died a few years later of TB. He was just 28 years old.

Today is All Saints Day, and Pope Julius II chose this day in 1512 to display Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time. Michelangelo didn't want to take on the job. He tried to explain that he was a sculptor not a painter. But the Pope wouldn't take no for an answer. And so Michelangelo had to take on one of the most difficult fresco paintings in history. To paint a fresco, you have to apply wet plaster to a wall and then paint over the plaster before it dries. Michelangelo had to do all this on a 10,000-square-foot ceiling 60 feet above the ground. Study of the ceiling has shown that while Michelangelo started out by making sketches for his paintings, he may have been in a rush to finish, because he wound up painting a lot of the ceiling freehand.

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




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