Oct. 19, 2008


by Michael Heffernan

I'm going to go out and walk around a little,
because it's a nice day, in the seventies,
after a night where the temperature dropped
just below freezing. There isn't much here
in the anteroom of the self, I don't think,
so why should I go on investigating
what last night's dream meant, or the subtleties
of the numerology of the soul as evidenced
in cryptanalytical encodings in the poems
of Bertran de Montségur? I'm out of here,
and off on a little walk in the neighborhood,
but first I'd like to tell you I appreciate
your letting me share. It meant a lot to me.
Quite candidly, I'm not sure what to do
on days like this, or any day, really.
It all runs together, into a place
the good seem to have occupied as their own
and spruced up so nicely others of us who aren't
so good, but not the worst of citizens,
can't help but feel a little out of pocket,
as the saying goes, and I for one would like
to reach into my pocket and pull out
the ruby medallion my mother gave to me,
which fell out of my coat into the grate
by the front tire of the bus I'd waited for
across the street from the Shubert Theatre
in Detroit in 1959. I'd say,
to anyone around inclined to listen,
here is a little something you can have.
I hope you like it. Why don't you just keep it
and give it to another good person some day.
Tell them it used to be Bertran's, who came here once
on a horse all spangled with rubies and golden bells.

"Medallion" by Michael Heffernan from The Night Breeze Off the Ocean. © Eastern Washington University Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War. On this day in 1781 in Yorktown, Virginia, General Charles Cornwallis and his army of 8,000 troops surrendered to George Washington and Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau. Together the Americans and the French had about 17,000 troops.

It's the birthday of the novelist Tracy Chevalier, (books by this author) born in Washington, D.C., in 1962. She wrote a book, and one morning she was lying on her bed trying to think of an idea for a second novel, and she looked at a poster on her wall — a poster that she had owned since she was 19. It was a picture of the Johannes Vermeer painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. She said, "I looked up at the painting and wondered what Vermeer did or said to the model to get her to look like that. And right then I made up the story." That story became Girl with a Pearl Earring, a best-selling novel, published in 2000.

It's the birthday of the novelist Philip Pullman, (books by this author) born in Norwich, England, in 1946. He was a middle school teacher, and he taught his students Greek mythology and wrote plays based on those myths. He wrote a trio of novels that have been best-sellers for both children and adults: The Golden Compass (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). He said, "We don't need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. 'Thou shalt not' is soon forgotten, but 'Once upon a time' lasts forever."

It's the birthday of the spy novelist John le Carré, (books by this author) born David Cornwell in Poole, England, in 1931. Le Carré's third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), was so successful that he quit his job in the British Secret Service and became a full-time writer.

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




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