Aug. 8, 2008


by Tony Hoagland

This year Marie drives back and forth
from the hospital room of her dying friend
to the office of the adoption agency.

I bet sometimes she doesn't know
What threshold she is waiting at—

the hand of her sick friend, hot with fever;
the theoretical baby just a lot of paperwork so far.

But next year she might be standing by a grave,
wearing black with a splash of
banana vomit on it,

the little girl just starting to say Sesame Street
and Cappuccino latte grand Mommy.
The future ours for a while to hold, with its heaviness—

and hope moving from one location to another
like the holy ghost that it is.

"Migration" by Tony Hoagland from What Narcissism Means To Me © Graywolf Press, 2003. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, (books by this author) born in Washington, D.C. (1896). She spent her early life traveling around the country as a newspaper reporter. When she was 30, she went to Florida and fell in love with it. She started an orange grove and learned to cope with mosquitoes and poison ivy. She learned how to build fences, slaughter hogs, and make moonshine.

She had written two novels before, and in 1938, she came out with her novel The Yearling, the story of a boy in backwoods Florida who keeps a pet fawn named Flag. It is now considered a children's book, but at the time it was a best seller among adults and won the Pulitzer Prize for literature.

It was on this day in 1974 that Richard M. Nixon resigned the office of the presidency, the first American president in history to do so. His policies as president had been rather liberal. He began arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. He eased relations with China. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded Social Security and state welfare programs, and tried to create a national health insurance system.

He won re-election in 1972 in a landslide, but in that same year, a group of men broke into the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, and in that break-in were the seeds of his downfall.

And today is the anniversary of the end of one of the last truly happy periods of John Keats's life (books by this author). It was on this day in 1818, Keats finished a long walking tour through Northern England, Ireland, and Scotland. John Keats was 23 years old. He'd planned to become a surgeon, but he realized his real vocation was poetry, and in the spring of 1818, he published his first major long poem, Endymion. And then he set out on a hike through the countryside with his friend Charles Brown. Wordsworth was one of Keats's favorite poets, and he knew that Wordsworth had been inspired by walking around England, so Keats decided to do the same that summer.

Keats was a London boy. He had never seen the mountains. He had never seen a waterfall. He wrote letters back to his brother about the wonderful things that he saw, but gradually on his hike he realized he was no Wordsworth, that he did not want to write about scenery. He hated descriptions. He was more interested in the people whom he saw along the way. He was fascinated by the peasants who walked barefoot on the roads, carrying their shoes and stockings so they would look nice when they got to town. He saw an old woman being carried along the road in a kind of a cage like a dog kennel, smoking a pipe.

He came back to London and learned that the reviews of Endymion were coming in, and critics had written ferocious attacks on him. He was crushed. And his brother had come down with a serious case of tuberculosis. His brother died in December, and by the end of that year, John Keats had contracted tuberculosis himself. He would die three years later, in 1821. It was in those last three years of his life that he wrote most of his greatest poems.

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




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