Jun. 21, 2007

I {Heart} My Wife

by Darlyn Finch

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Poem: "I {Heart} My Wife" by Darlyn Finch, from Red Wax Rose. © Shady Lane Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

I {Heart} My Wife

"I {Heart} My Wife"
the bumper sticker read
in the window of the pickup truck
ahead of me at the red light,
and I burst into tears
for no particular reason
I could explain
to the crossing guard on the corner
or even to the man driving the truck,
who looked quite ordinary,
and did not realize
those four happy words
could rip a woman's heart out
under certain circumstances,
when she's one man's abscessed tooth,
and another's dirty little secret.

Then I stopped to wonder,
as I blew my nose
and wiped my eyes,
whether the man had bought the bumper sticker
at all, or if his wife had perhaps
stuck it there,
in the window behind his head,
as a message to women like me,
whom she surely knows are sitting
at every red light
in every town,
wishing they could one day be
very best thing.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is the summer solstice and the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. For those of us in the north, today will be the longest day of the year and tonight will be the shortest night. The entire earth is about 3 million miles farther from the sun at this time of the year. The difference in the temperature is due to the fact that our planet is tilted on its axis, and at this time of year, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, receiving more direct radiation for longer periods of time each day. It is that slight tilt, only 23 1/2 degrees, that makes the difference between winter and summer. The rise in temperature allows most of the plants we eat to germinate. Wheat and many other plants require an average temperature of at least 40º F to grow. Corn needs a temperature of 50º F, and rice needs a temperature of 68º F.

It's the birthday of novelist Ian McEwan, (books by this author) born in Aldershot, England (1948). His father was a Scottish soldier in the British Army, and McEwan grew up in various places around the world, including Singapore and North Africa. He liked to read, but he'd never even thought of being a writer until he heard about a creative writing program in East Anglia, taught by the writer Malcolm Bradbury, that would allow him to write fiction for credit. As soon as McEwan began to write, he found it came very easily to him. He wrote 20 short stories in his first year in the program, most of which he later published. He said it was like a lid blowing off a tin.

At that time, McEwan said, "Contemporary English fiction was so nicely modulated and full of observation about class and furniture. ... I wanted much more vivid colors. I wanted something savage."

He filled his first book, First Love, Last Rites (1975), with short stories about incest, infanticide, and bestiality. His first novel, Cement Garden (1978), is about a group of children who hide their dead mother in the basement by covering her with cement, so they can go on living without parents. His novel The Innocent (1988) featured one of the lengthiest scenes of human dismemberment in contemporary literature. Critics in England were shocked. They made jokes that he kept a jar full of pickled body parts on his writing desk, and they started calling him Ian Macabre.

McEwan's recent novels have grown progressively less grisly, but he still doesn't shy away from violence and suspense in his work. He said, "I want something to happen in my stories, and I want to sort of push them to the edge. ... Most threats in life come from the unpredictable, random, cruel behavior of other people. ... [Suspense is] not the only thing one wants in a novel, but I hold to quite old-fashioned beliefs in the power of the story, our need for story."

McEwan said of writing fiction, "You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan."

It's the birthday of author Mary McCarthy, (books by this author) born in Seattle, Washington (1912). She published several novels — including The Group (1963) about a group of Vassar students — but she had a hard time making things up, so most of her novels are autobiographical.

Most critics believe that her best book is the memoir Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957). She is also remembered for her literary criticism. The writer Gore Vidal said, "She was our most brilliant literary critic, [because she was] uncorrupted by compassion."

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




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