Dec. 5, 2008

All the Women I Almost Married

by Tim Mayo

They gather at the edge of a big proscenium like a Greek
chorus keening out their melodious dirges as I prepare
to read my poems to an audience of my peers. They are
not mourning me, nor themselves, instead, they mourn
all the women I did marry. Then, one of them steps up
whom I think I recognize. She lays her hands upon me
like some blind tent healer, some traveling maiden
all gussied up in a white robe who has laid her hands
for a living every night on a different man
in a different field, outside a different town,
all over the sultry summerscape of America,
and suddenly, I hear the whip-o-wills sing as though
I have been blessed by the invisible, the feathers
of something marvelous that passes only once.

"All the Women I Almost Married" by Tim Mayo, from The Loneliness of Dogs. © Pudding House Publications, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1933 that Utah voted to ratify the 21st Amendment, a decision that officially ended Prohibition in the United States. Prohibition had gone into effect in January of 1920, almost 14 years earlier, when the 18th Amendment banned the "manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors."

It was on this day in 1776 that Phi Beta Kappa was founded by five students at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was the first American honor society.

It's the birthday of writer John Berendt, (books by this author) born in Syracuse, New York (1939). He was an editor at Esquire magazine when he took a trip to Savannah, Georgia. He ended up living there for five years doing research and interviews, and he wrote a book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994). It was a runaway best-seller and stayed on The New York Times best-seller list for 217 weeks. Since its publication, tourism in Savannah has increased by almost 50 percent. His newest book is The City of Falling Angels (2005), about the city of Venice.

It's the birthday of Rose Wilder Lane, (books by this author) born in 1887 in De Smet, Dakota Territory. She worked for the San Francisco Bulletin as a reporter, an editor, and the author of romance serials. She wrote biographies of Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Jack London, and Herbert Hoover. She was a prolific and popular author, and one of the highest-paid female writers in America.

Rose Wilder Lane struggled with depression, and during one of her worst bouts, she went to stay with her parents on their farm in Missouri. Her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, was then in her 60s, and one day she showed Rose a manuscript she had been working on, the story of her childhood. No one is sure how much Rose and Laura collaborated, but Rose certainly helped her mother edit the manuscripts, and might have even helped write them. And they became the books in the Little House series, which include Little House in the Big Woods (1932), Farmer Boy (1933), Little House on the Prairie (1935), and On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937).

It's the birthday of the essayist and novelist Joan Didion, (books by this author) born in Sacramento, California (1934). She wrote a memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), about the craziness of grief after the death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne. It won the National Book Award.

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