Nov. 5, 2008

Middle-Aged Men, Leaning

by Bruce Taylor

      four movements

They lean on rakes.
It's late, it is evening
already inside their houses.

The children are gone.
Their wives are on the phone
talking softly to someone else.

This frost, this early Fall
upon their minds, a small
measure of patience and regard

as if the twilight world
in bright papery pieces
diminished so and thus.

They lean on hoes
in Spring the green earth
turned once more beneath them

their eyes full of flowers
their hands full too
of the planting still to do

the weeds and drought awaiting
their pocketful of seed
the water they must carry.

In an early winter dark they lean
on shovels, a graying heart
a last bad rap inside them,

looking upward toward the sky
the yard, the driveway, the car
the street, the world

itself for all they know
buried by the falling snow
even as they gasp to breathe

and re-breathe the visible breath,
like a burst cartoon balloon
of an old imperfect prayer.

In summer, after long mowing,
they lean toward a growing
silence in the plush grasses

in leaves of many greens
in trees of their own colors
where grackle and crow

each to its own shadow
in the dusky reach of branches
gather quietly to stay.

"Middle-Aged Men, Leaning" by Bruce Taylor from Pity the World. © Plain View Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of writer Thomas Flanagan, (books by this author) born in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1923. He did not become a novelist until after the age of 50. He'd been a professor of literature in New York and at Berkeley, and a scholar of Irish history. One day, waiting for his wife to pick him up, he had a flash of inspiration for a historical novel in which an Irish poet walked down a road. This became the first chapter of The Year of the French (1979), about Ireland's failed attempt to revolt against the English in 1798. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Flanagan went on to write other well-received historical novels about Ireland, incorporating real-life figures like Charles Stewart Parnell and Wolfe Tone along with fictional characters.

He spent nearly every summer of his last 40 years in Ireland, and once said, "It is not the romantic, rather sentimental Ireland of many Irish-Americans that I love, but the actual Ireland, a complex, profound, historical society, woven of many strands, some bright and some dark."

It's the birthday of memoirist Joyce Maynard, (books by this author) born in Exeter, New Hampshire (1953). She was a regular contributor to The New York Times, CBS radio, and various magazines. She wrote a few novels, including a true-crime novel, and then she wrote At Home in the World (1998), a memoir that revealed her affair with J.D. Salinger, which had taken place when she was 19 years old.

As a teenager, she published an essay in The New York Times Magazine called "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life." Salinger wrote her a fan letter, and they began to correspond regularly. After a year at Yale, she dropped out and went to live with Salinger, who was 53 years old and living in seclusion in the New Hampshire countryside. Nine months later, he asked her to leave.

Her latest book is Internal Combustion (2006).

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




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