Oct. 9, 2007


by Cheryl Denise

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Poem: "They'll" by Cheryl Denise, from I Saw God Dancing. © Dream Seeker Books, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


take your soul
and put it in a suit,
fit you in boxes
under labels,
make you look like the Joneses.

They'll tell you go a little blonder,
suggest sky-blue
tinted contact lenses,
conceal that birthmark
under your chin.

They'll urge you to have babies
get fulfilled.
They'll say marriage is easy,
flowers from Thornhills
are all you need
to keep it together.

They'll push you to go ahead,
borrow a few more grand,
build a dream house.
Your boys need Nikes,
your girls cheerleading,
and all you need is your job
9 to 5 in the same place.

They'll order you never to cry
in Southern States,
and never, ever dance
in the rain.

They'll repeat all the things
your preschool teacher said
in that squeaky too tight voice.

And when you slowly
let them go,
crack your suit,
ooze your soul
in the sun,
when you run through
the woods with your dog,
read poems to swaying cornfields,
pray in tall red oaks,
they'll whisper
and pretend you're crazy.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of John Lennon, (albums by this musician) born in Liverpool, England (1940), who formed his first rock band in high school, called the Quarrymen. He was performing at a church social in the summer of 1957 when a boy in the audience named Paul McCartney saw him for the first time. McCartney later said he was impressed by how tough Lennon looked on stage, like he was challenging the audience to a fight. In fact, Lennon had gotten into a fight with his aunt earlier in the evening, and he was just glaring at her while he sang. Lennon and McCartney became friends later that night, and they formed the band that became The Beatles.

It's the birthday of the suspense novelist Michael Palmer, (books by this author) born in Springfield, Massachusetts (1942), who never thought he could be a writer, but always had a lot of interests. In college, he took classes in experimental cellular physiology, Russian literature, Near Eastern poetry, and philosophy, and also learned to play a South Indian classical drum. He started reading a lot of suspense novels after he became an emergency room doctor, because they helped him relax, and then, even though he was working 100 hours a week, he wrote his own first novel, The Sisterhood (1982), about a secret society of killer nurses, and it became a best-seller. His most recent book is The Fifth Vial (2007).

It's the birthday of historian Bruce Catton, (books by this author) born in Petoskey, Michigan (1899), who was working as a newspaperman when he stumbled on some regimental histories in a used-book store with information about individual Civil War soldiers. At that time, Civil War historians had focused on the different commanders and their strategies, but nobody had tried to tell the story of the war from the ordinary soldiers' points of view. So Catton gathered as many diaries, letters, and wartime newspapers as he could find and set out to write a trilogy of books about the Army of the Potomac. He had a hard time getting the first two volumes of his history published, because his publishers believed that nobody was interested in Civil War history anymore. But when the third volume, A Stillness at Appomattox, came out in 1953, it won both the Pulitzer Prize for history and the National Book Award. Other historians did not consider Catton a real historian, and he was fine with that, because he wasn't trying to analyze anything, he was just trying to tell the story. He said, "[I'm] not a historian ... I am a reporter."

It's the birthday of Charles R(udolph) Walgreen, owner of the Walgreens drug store chain, born near Galesburg, Illinois (1873). He only became a pharmacist after he lost part of a finger working in a shoe factory and the doctor persuaded him to become a druggist's apprentice. He worked for years to save up and buy his own drug store on Chicago's South Side in 1891.

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