Oct. 10, 2008


by Leonard Nathan

As children in the schoolroom game
whisper from one end of the class to the other
and garble the message they pass on or change it
beyond recognition, so we
pass on the truth of our kind.

My father heard it from his, something
vaguely involving God, and his father
heard it from his, and so on back
to Abraham, and so father
passed it on to me, but God had dropped out.

And so my son heard it, a wisdom
found inside a Chinese fortune cookie:
"Be good and hope," which he will pass on
to his son, but maybe with good
missing or hope, maybe with love added.

Though love was never meant to mean so much.

"Truth" by Leonard Nathan from The Potato Eaters. © Orchises Press, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the British scientist Henry Cavendish, born in 1731 in Nice, France. He's the man who discovered hydrogen, which he called "inflammable air," and he wrote about it in 1766 in a scientific paper called "On Factitious Airs." Cavendish was painfully shy — so shy that he didn't really like to publish his papers, and so he conducted lots of experiments that he didn't tell anyone about. It wasn't until much later, in the 1870s, that another scientist went through all his papers and realized that Cavendish had actually discovered or predicted many scientific breakthroughs that came later and that other people got credit for, including Richter's Law of Reciprocal Proportions, Ohm's Law, Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures, Charles's Law of Gases, and principles of electrical conductivity.

It's the birthday of the romance novelist Nora Roberts, (books by this author) born in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1950. Her first novel, Irish Thoroughbred, came out in 1981.

She says that romance novels "are a celebration of relations, finding love, overcoming obstacles, and making commitments. I think that is something very worthy of respect. They're not just about naked pirates, although what's wrong with a naked pirate now and again?"

It's the birthday of the playwright Harold Pinter, (books by this author) born in 1930 in London, England. His first play was The Room (1957), and since then he's written many plays, including The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), and Betrayal (1978).

It's the birthday of the Indian novelist R. K. Narayan, (books by this author) born on this day in 1906 in what is now Chennai, India. Narayan wrote 14 novels, all in English. Almost all his short stories and novels are about ordinary people and events; they take place in a fictional town in Southern India named Malgudi. Those books include The English Teacher (1945), The Vendor of Sweets (1967), and A Tiger for Malgudi (1983).

It was on this day in 1971 that the London Bridge was dedicated in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. The city of London realized that the bridge wasn't strong enough for all the traffic that crossed it every day, and that it was sinking slowly into the Thames River. They needed a more modern bridge, so they put the London Bridge up for sale. The entire bridge was dismantled, each stone was numbered, and then it was shipped to Arizona, where it took three years to put back together. It opened to the public on this day in 1971. The bridge spans a man-made canal that leads from Lake Havasu to Thompson Bay.

The nursery rhyme "London Bridge" was first published in England in 1744 in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, but it was already well-known by that time. It probably came from the Saga of Olaf Haraldson, a Norwegian saga that celebrates how the Vikings destroyed the bridge in the early 11th century.

The Tommy Thumb version goes like this:

London Bridge Is Broken down
Dance over my Lady Lee
London Bridge Is Broken down
With a gay Lady
How shall we build It up again,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Build it up with Gravel, and Stone,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Gravel, and Stone Will wash away,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Build it up with Iron, and Steel,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Iron, and Steel, Will bend, and Bow,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Build it up with Silver, and Gold,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Silver, and Gold Will be stolen away,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Then we'll set A man to Watch,
Dance over my Lady Lee,
Then we'll set A man to Watch
With a gay Lady.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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