Nov. 22, 2008

Runways Cafe II

by Marilyn Hacker

For once, I hardly noticed what I ate
(salmon and broccoli and Saint-Véran).
My elbow twitched like jumping beans; sweat ran
into my shirtsleeves. Could I concentrate
on anything but your leg against mine
under the table? It was difficult,
but I impersonated an adult
looking at you, and knocking back the wine.
Now that we both want to know what we want,
now that we both want to know what we know,
it still behooves us to know what to do:
be circumspect, be generous, be brave,
be honest, be together, and behave.
At least I didn't get white sauce down my front.

"Runways Café II" by Marilyn Hacker, from Love, Death and the Changing of the Seasons. © W.W. Norton and Company, 1986. Reprinted by permission of Frances Collin, Literary Agent. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the woman who served as the model for Picasso's Weeping Woman portraits, Dora Maar, born in Tours, France (1907). She was born Théodora Markovitch, and an artist in her own right, known for her surreal photographs of the reproductive parts of flowers. She was 29 years old when she met Picasso, who was 55. She had grown up in Argentina, and they spoke Spanish together. They formed a quick bond.

A few months later, they moved in together, and Dora Maar began a photo documentary of Picasso's anti-war painting "Guernica." She was his lover and his muse. For "Guernica," she posed for him as a grief-stricken woman carrying her dead child. Ironically, this was during one of the rare periods when she was happy being with Picasso.

In 1945, after they had lived together for nine years, Picasso fell in love with an even younger woman, and he dumped Dora Maar. She had a nervous collapse. She was found naked on the stairs outside her apartment and put in a psychiatric hospital in Paris, where she underwent electroshock therapy. She gradually regained her mental health, but it was another decade before she produced her own art again.

Dora Maar kept all the art Picasso had made for her in her apartment on the Left Bank of Paris, where she died in 1997 at age 90, a recluse without any heirs. The paintings and drawings she had hoarded sold at auction for $30 million. In 2006, a portrait of Dora Maar by Picasso sold in New York for $95 million, the second-highest price in history for a painting.

It's the feast day of Saint Cecilia, who was the patron saint of musicians because she sang to God as she died a martyr's death. She was born to a noble family in Rome near the end of the second century A.D.

She remained a virgin her whole life. When she got married, she told her new husband, Valerian, that she had a guardian angel who told her to remain a virgin. She sent her husband out to the countryside to be baptized, and when he came back, he found her in her chamber with the angel.

Both Cecilia and Valerian were martyred for their faith. First Valerian was killed, and then they tried to kill Cecilia in an overheated bathhouse, but she found the temperature pleasant. They then tried to behead her, but it didn't kill her. So they left her, and she lay there, bleeding and singing, before she finally died three days later.

Henry Purcell composed music in her honor. Raphael created a piece called "The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia." Chaucer wrote about her in the Second Nonnes Tale, part of his Canterbury Tales.

It was about 12:30 p.m. on this day in 1963 that President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. The Warren Commission published a report concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting the president, a conclusion that less than half of all Americans believe. Don DeLillo wrote the novel Libra (1988) about the Kennedy assassination, and he wrote, "What has become unraveled since that afternoon in Dallas is ... the sense of a coherent reality most of us shared. We seem from that moment to have entered a world of randomness and ambiguity."

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




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