Feb. 24, 2008

And One For My Dame

by Anne Sexton

A born salesman,
my father made all his dough
by selling wool to Fieldcrest, Woolrich and Faribo.

A born talker,
he could sell one hundred wet-down bales
of that white stuff. He could clock the miles and sales

and make it pay.
At home each sentence he would utter
had first pleased the buyer who'd paid him off in butter.

Each word
had been tried over and over, at any rate,
on the man who was sold by the man who filled my plate.

My father hovered
over the Yorkshire pudding and the beef:
a peddler, a hawker, a merchant and an Indian chief.

Roosevelt! Willkie! and war!
How suddenly gauche I was
with my old-maid heart and my funny teenage applause.

Each night at home
my father was in love with maps
while the radio fought its battles with Nazis and Japs.

Except when he hid
in his bedroom on a three-day drunk,
he typed out complex itineraries, packed his trunk,

his matched luggage
and pocketed a confirmed reservation,
his heart already pushing over the red routes of the nation.

I sit at my desk
each night with no place to go,
opening the wrinkled maps of Milwaukee and Buffalo,

the whole U.S.
its cemeteries, its arbitrary time zones,
through routes like small veins, capitals like small stones.

He died on the road,
his heart pushed from neck to back,
his white hanky signaling from the window of the Cadillac.

My husband,
as blue-eyed as a picture book, sells wool:
boxes of card waste, laps and rovings he can pull

to the thread
and say Leicester, Rambouillet, Merino,
a half-blood, it's greasy and thick, yellow as old snow.

And when you drive off, my darling,
Yes sir! Yes sir! It's one for my dame,
your sample cases branded with my father's name,

your itinerary open,
its tolls ticking and greedy,
its highways built up like new loves, raw and speedy.

"And One For My Dame" by Anne Sexton from Selected Poems. © Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist George Augustus Moore, (books by this author) born in County Mayo, Ireland (1852), who was, he later said, "the boy that no schoolmaster wanted." He read whatever novels and poetry he wanted rather than the assigned work, and in 1867 he was expelled for (as he described) "idleness and general worthlessness." He returned to Ireland.

His father wanted him to go into the military, but George wanted to be a painter. His father died, and George took his inheritance and moved to Paris to study art, and spent his time sitting in Parisian cafes reading philosophy. He had to return to Mayo, however, because his tenants had quit paying rent and the affairs of his estate were in financial disaster.

He decided to become a writer and moved to London. There he published his first novel, A Modern Lover, which was banned by libraries for its sexually explicit passages — which helped sales — and he began a lifelong crusade against censorship.

His other realist novels include A Mummer's Wife (1885), A Drama in Muslin (1886), and Esther Waters (1894). He wrote a memoir, Confessions of a Young Man (1888), and some books of art criticism. In 1901, Moore returned to Ireland, and along with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, he was a leader of the Irish Literary Revival.

He wrote, "A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."

And, "Art must be parochial in the beginning to be cosmopolitan in the end."

It's the birthday of Wilhelm Grimm, (books by this author) born in Hanau, Germany (1786), who — along with his older brother Jacob — published a collection of more than 200 fairy tales of the early 19th century. The volume gave rise to the scientific study of folklore and gave us "Cinderella," "Hansel and Gretel," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Rapunzel," and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

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




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