Dec. 7, 2008

Remodeling the Bathroom

by Ellen Bass

If this were the last
day of my life, I wouldn't complain
about the shower curtain rod
in the wrong place, even though
it's drilled into the tiles.
Nor would I fret
over water marks on the apricot
satin finish paint, half sick
that I should have used semigloss. No.
I'd stand in the doorway
watching sun glint
off the chrome faucet, breathing in
the silicone smell. I'd wonder
at the plumber, as he adjusted the hot
and cold water knobs. I'd stare
at the creases behind his ears and the gray
flecks in his stubble. I'd have to hold
myself back from touching him. Or maybe
I wouldn't. Maybe I'd stroke
his cheek and study
his eyes the amber of cellos, his rumpled
brow, the tiny garnet
threads of capillaries, his lips
resting together, quiet as old friends—
I'd gaze at him
as though his were the first
face I'd ever seen.

"Remodeling the Bathroom" by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love. © BOA Editions, 2002. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is known as "Delaware Day" in that state, because it was on this day in 1787 that Delaware became the first state of the United States, when 30 delegates met in Battell's Tavern in Dover and ratified the U.S. Constitution.

It's the birthday of the sculptor Bernini, born Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini in Naples in 1598. He sculpted many fountains around Rome, and he's most famous for his work as an architect and artist on St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

It was on this day in 43 B.C.E. that the great Roman orator Cicero was executed. He had been giving speeches against Marc Antony, and he was hunted down and beheaded. Cicero's head was taken back to Marc Antony, whose wife, Fulvia, pulled out Cicero's tongue and jabbed it with her hairpin in revenge.

It's the birthday of the novelist Willa Cather, (books by this author) born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia (1873). Her family moved to Nebraska when she was a little girl, to get away from a tuberculosis epidemic that had killed a lot of her extended family. In Red Cloud, Nebraska, Cather spent most of her free time talking to the immigrant farmers and listening to their stories about their homelands. She was amazed that they had come to America to be farmers, even though most of them had been tailors, locksmiths, joiners, and cigar-makers, and had never farmed in their lives. She went to college, then moved to New York City and became a successful magazine editor for McClure's. But after 10 years, she quit her job and took a trip back to Nebraska, where she was inspired to begin work on O Pioneers! (1913). She felt like she had always been imitating other writers, but when she wrote O Pioneers! she said, "In this one I hit the home pasture." She went on to write many more novels, including The Song of the Lark (1915), My Ántonia (1918), and Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927).

It's the birthday of the public intellectual, political writer, and the man known as the "father of modern linguistics," Noam Chomsky, (books by this author) born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1928). His book Syntactic Structures (1957) argued that there is a universal grammar innate to the human brain.

It was on this day in 1941 that Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. Two thousand three hundred and ninety Americans were killed. Congress declared war the following morning, and the United States officially entered WWII. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that December 7th was a date that would "live in infamy."

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




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