Nov. 30, 2008

Six Billion People

by Tom Chandler

And all of you so beautiful
I want to bring you home with me
to sit close on the couch.

My invitation inserted in six billion bottles,
corked with bark from the final forest
and dropped in the ocean of my longing.

We would speak the language of no words,
pass the jug of our drunken joy
at being babies growing into death.

Sometimes, I know, life is stupid, pointless,
beside the point, but here's the point —
maybe we would fall

in love, settle down together,
share the wine, the bills,
the last of the oxygen and the remote.

"Six Billion People" by Tom Chandler, from Toy Firing Squad. © Wind Publications, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Mark Twain, (books by this author) born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835. When he was young, his family moved to Hannibal, a Missouri town along the banks of the Mississippi and a frequent stop for steamboats. And in fact, after a few years working as a printer, he became a steamboat captain, which is where he got his pseudonym: "mark twain" is the call when the water is two fathoms deep — about 12 feet — which is deep enough for a boat to navigate safely.

Mark Twain convinced his younger brother, Henry, to become a captain also. He had a detailed dream about his brother's death, and a few weeks later, the steamboat that Henry was working on exploded, and Henry was killed. For the rest of his life, Twain felt responsible for his brother's death, and he was fascinated by paranormal events and mysteries.

When the Civil War began, the river traffic was taken over by the Union Army, and Twain was out of a job. Missouri was a slave state, and Mark Twain left it during the war and traveled out west with his older brother Orion. He started writing seriously — travel writing and fiction. He wrote many books, including The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1867), and The Innocents Abroad (1869), which sold much better than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He took a minor character in Tom Sawyer, a boy named Huck, and wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Huck Finn is poor and uncivilized, the son of an abusive, alcoholic father; his companion, Jim, is an escaped slave. Huck narrates their adventures as they travel down the river on a raft:

"We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we laughed — only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all — that night, nor the next, nor the next."

Mark Twain said, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." And, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

It's the birthday of the Canadian children's author L.M. Montgomery, Lucy Maud Montgomery, (books by this author) born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, in 1874. She wrote many short stories and poems, and 20 novels. Nineteen of these novels were set on Prince Edward Island, including her first, Anne of Green Gables (1908), about an old farm couple who think they have arranged to adopt a boy to help out with their farm, and instead end up with Anne, a spunky redheaded orphan girl.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, so there are many events and tributes surrounding Montgomery. A couple of months ago, in September 2008, Montgomery's granddaughter took advantage of the interest in her grandma to write an article in a Canadian newspaper and reveal that her grandmother's death at age 67, which had been reported as heart failure, was in fact no such thing. L.M. Montgomery was suffering from depression and committed suicide.

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




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