Jun. 10, 2008

First Marriage

by Liam Rector

I made it cross country
In a little under three days.
The engine blew out

About a hundred miles north
Of San Francisco, where I'd
Hoped to start living again

With a woman I'd abandoned
Only a few months before.
The reasons I'd left her were

Wincingly obvious
Soon as I got back
To her, and it didn't take long

Before I again left her.
In a few weeks I'd meet
The woman who became

My first wife, the one
With whom I spent
Almost the entirety

Of my twenties. It took
About twenty years
Getting over her, after

We divorced at thirty.
Broke then, I took
A bus cross-country

And was back in the East
By Christmas, thinking it
Would take three years maybe

To put this one behind me.
But getting over her
Happened as we were

Both in our third marriages,
Both then with children,
Heading for our fifties.

She came cross-country
To tend to me when I had
Cancer, with a 20% chance

Of recovery. The recovery
From all she had been to me,
Me abiding with her as long

As I did, took place finally
When we, her sitting on my bed
And me lying in it, held hands

And watched ourselves watching
TV, something we'd never quite
Been able to do comfortably

All those years ago. So many
Things turn this way over time,
So much tenderness and memory,

Problems not to be solved
But lived, and I resolved
Right then to start living

Only in this kind of time.
Cancer gave this to me: being
Able to sit, comfortably, to get

Over her finally, and to
Get on with the fight to live while
Staying ready to die daily.

"First Marriage" by Liam Rector, from The Executive Director of The Fallen World. © The University of Chicago Press, 2006. (buy now)

Today is the birthday of the British playwright Terrence Rattigan,(books by this author) born in London, England, in 1911. He wrote more than 40 plays and screenplays, including The Winslow Boy (1948) and The Deep Blue Sea (1955). He said, "A playwright must be his own audience. A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute."

It's the birthday of the novelist and Nobel Prize Laureate Saul Bellow, (books by this author) born in Lachine, Quebec, in 1915. He was born in Canada but raised in Chicago, and he wrote two novels that didn't do very well. But then he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and moved to Paris to write. And while he was there, he realized that he loved Chicago and really didn't like Paris very much. So he started a new novel and set it in Chicago. It was called The Adventures of Augie March (1954), and this novel became his first real success and won the National Book Award for fiction. He continued writing plays, nonfiction, and more novels, including Henderson The Rain King (1959) and Herzog (1964). He served as a war correspondent for Newsday during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, and he taught for many years in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

He said, "A man is only as good as what he loves. "

It's the birthday of the children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928. He started as an illustrator, and he thought that illustrations shouldn't be used as a way to clarify the text, but as a way to add to its mystery, a way to expand a reader's imagination. He uses his books to explore the complicated psychological world of childhood.

In 1963, he decided to illustrate and write a book, and this book was Where the Wild Things Are, the story of a boy named Max who visits strange lands and strange monsters and then comes home to have his supper. He also wrote In the Night Kitchen (1970), about a little boy named Mickey who travels through a surreal world in the night, a world of giant bakery supplies and huge amounts of cake batter, and in this world Mickey does not have any clothes on, and this has made In the Night Kitchen one of the most banned books in the United States.

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




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