Mar. 23, 2008

The Dream

by Irving Feldman

Once, years after your death, I dreamt
you were alive and that I'd found you
living once more in the old apartment.
But I had taken a woman up there
to make love to in the empty rooms.
I was angry at you who'd borne and loved me
and because of whom I believe in heaven.
I regretted your return from the dead
and said to myself almost bitterly,
"For godsakes, what was the big rush,
couldn't she wait one more day?"

And just so daily somewhere Messiah
is shunned like a beggar at the door because
someone has something he wants to finish
or just something better to do, something
he prefers not to put off forever
—some little pleasure so deeply wished
that Heaven's coming has to seem bad luck
or worse, God's intruding selfishness!
But you always turned Messiah away
with a penny and a cake for his trouble
—because wash had to be done, because
who could let dinner boil over and burn,
because everything had to be festive for
your husband, your daughters, your son.

"The Dream" by Irving Feldman, from Collected Poems 1954-2004. © Schocken Books, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is Easter Sunday, an important holiday in Christianity. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus following his death on the cross. Easter is calculated differently on Eastern and Western calendars; the Eastern Orthodox celebration will occur on April 27 this year.

Exactly 265 years ago today, George Frederic Handel's oratorio Messiah premiered in London (1743). Handel was born Georg Frederich Handel in Halle, Germany, in 1685. In 1712, he relocated permanently to England after living in Hamburg and Hanover, Germany, and in Italy. His main claim to fame was as an opera composer, and in 1719 he co-founded the Royal Academy of Music in London, through which he tried to introduce English theatergoers to Italian opera. When that goal more or less failed, Handel turned to writing oratorios in the English baroque style. Messiah was written in just three weeks, from August 22 to September 12, 1741 — an amazingly short time for an epic piece of music.

Spanish painter Juan Gris was born José Victoriano González on this day in Madrid (1887). Gris studied engineering in Madrid but soon abandoned it for art. He moved to Paris in 1906 and rented the apartment right next to Pablo Picasso's. Picasso and collaborator Georges Braque greatly influenced Gris, and he exhibited artwork in the Cubist exhibition in 1912.

Today is the birthday of writer Kim Stanley Robinson, (books by this author) born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1952. Robinson is best known for his hard science fiction, beginning with the Orange County trilogy. The books aren't a trilogy in the traditional sense of one story carried onward in time, but rather represent three different alternate futures for California. The first book in the series, The Wild Shore, was Robinson's first novel, published in 1984. In this California, nuclear war has come and gone, and a young boy must find his place in a world that is both exhilarating and dangerous. The second book, The Gold Coast (1988), is a bleak dystopian projection of an overcrowded, drug-riddled California, while Pacific Edge (1990) describes a practical utopian society in a small town called El Modena.

In the 1980s, Robinson began exploring the topic of Mars and what it might be like after human colonization. The Mars Trilogy of Red Mars (1992), Green Mars (1994), and Blue Mars (1996) follows a group of 100 scientists who settle on the planet, which is itself one of the most interesting characters. Robinson is known for his attention to detail, especially in his settings. He has written stories set on Pluto and Mercury, in the past and the future, on the slopes of the Himalayas and on the ice of Antarctica. He frequently highlights the importance of ecological conservation in his alternate realities. His most recent trilogy of Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Fifty Degrees Below (2005), and Sixty Days and Counting (2007) centers on Earth after a climate breakdown caused by global warming.

Robinson thinks of science fiction as a particularly American form. "America [itself] is an experiment," he said, "a mixture, future- and progress-oriented, and out of all of it pops this literature of what happens next. It's like jazz; it has European precursors, but we understand America through science fiction; we all feel we're in a giant science fiction novel that we all write together."

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




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