Jun. 23, 2008

Losing WSUI

by Michael Dennis Browne

Driving East, and I begin
to lose the string quartet put out
by University Radio WSUI;

those grave clear notes, making
a Lithuania of these black
Mid-Western fields must now

compete with blurred
upswellings of sound, tumorous
commercial heavings, as saws

sobbing into the trunks
of trees, women swaying
packed with tobacco, creaming

all the sparkling parks
their world offers. The beams
the tall transmitter spits

so strongly out near home
begin to falter now, cowards
of distance, and the rich

stream of kilowatts withers
visibly almost, a flickering
of birds turning for home

through the November air.
And now the voice of your
announcer, Larry Barrett, displaying

no panic, begins to be
sucked under by a quicksand
of muck, money music, noise

fronds at his throat, a whole
ruptured jungle of sound
springing up around the bright

tin huts our minds rent. I
will not be driven to the edge
of Iowa by the urgent

melancholy of cellos after
all. Larry is sinking
fast now, still stately, swallowed

like a pagoda. A last
gargle of vowels, and the inane
other America takes over, goodbye

WSUI, farewell Larry, remember
me to Albinoni.

"Losing WSUI" by Michael Dennis Browne, from The Wife of Winter. © Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Tonight is Midsummer Night's Eve, also called St. John's Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It's a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That's where the word "honeymoon" comes from. Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers. Women washed their faces in it to make themselves beautiful and young. They skipped naked through the dew to make themselves more fertile. It's a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, "Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking." Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers. Shakespeare set his play A Midsummer Night's Dream on this night. It tells the story of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens. In the play, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth."

It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer David Leavitt, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1961). His first story was published in The New Yorker when he was still a senior in college. It created a stir because it was the first story in The New Yorker with characters who were explicitly homosexual. When he was 23, he published his first collection of stories, Family Dancing (1984). He said, "I don't think it's fair to say that writers have an obligation to write about any particular subject. A writer's only obligation is to write well."

It's the birthday of sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, born in Hoboken, New Jersey (1894). He was the first person to study human sexual behavior using modern scientific methods. He interviewed almost 19,000 people about their sexual behavior and published the results in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948). It found, for instance, that premarital sex was more prevalent than people thought, that masturbation does not cause mental illness, and that virtually all men do it. The book was 804 pages, and it sold 185,000 copies in its first year, making it a best seller. Later, he published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), which sold even better, and put him on the cover of Time magazine.

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




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