Dec. 22, 2008

Coming Out of Wal-Mart

by Mark DeFoe

The child, puny, paling toward albino,
hands fused on the handlebars of a new bike.
The man, a cut-out of the boy, gnome-like,
grizzled, knotted like a strange root,
guides him out, hand on the boy's shoulder.
They speak, but in language softer than hearing.

The boy steers the bike as if he steered
a soap bubble, a blown glass swan, a cloud.

On the walk they go still. Muzak covers them.
Sun crushes. The man is a tiny horse,
gentle at a fence. The boy's eyes are huge
as a fawn's.

      He grips hard the orange and pink,
and purple and green striped handlebars,
smiling the fixed sweet smile of the sainted.

"Coming Out of Wal-Mart" by Mark DeFoe, from The Green Chair. © Pringle Tree Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this day in 1953 William Faulkner was vacationing in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He wrote a letter to his mother:

Dear Moms —
This is right in the middle of the Alps, snow on them and moonlight, very beautiful, much ski-ing and bob-sledding, place full of American movie people, plus King Farouk of Egypt — Gregory Peck, Charles Feldman, my California agent, many others — actors, writers, etc. I don't like it. I am going to England then Paris for Xmas and New Year's, wish I was home which is the only place to spend Xmas. I love you all and miss you all.

It's the week of Christmas, and this week we're celebrating Christmas literature and movies. The most famous Christmas story is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It was a huge success when it came out in December of 1843 — it sold more than 6,000 copies during its first week in print. It's the story of the mean old miser Ebenezer Scrooge. One Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, and then by three spirits. And he ends up changing his ways and joining in the Christmas spirit.

"A Child's Christmas in Wales," a short story by Dylan Thomas, was published in 1955, and it's still popular today. It's the story of a man remembering his boyhood Christmases spent in Wales. He remembers trying to put out a house fire with snowballs, and Uncles sitting around the fire testing their new cigars. He remembers feasting on turkey and a Christmas pudding. And an uncle playing the fiddle while the family sang — the singing was led by Auntie Hannah, "who had got on to the parsnip wine." And he remembers the Useful Presents, like mufflers and books, and the Useless Presents — false noses, toffees, and candy cigarettes.

"A Child's Christmas in Wales" begins: "One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."

It's the birthday of poet Kenneth Rexroth, (books by this author) born on this day in South Bend, Indiana (1905). He lived and wrote on the West Side of Chicago, and eventually settled in San Francisco. He said, "Man thrives where angels would die of ecstasy and where pigs would die of disgust."

It's the birthday of the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, (books by this author) born in Head Tide, Maine (1869). His father was an extremely successful businessman, so Robinson didn't have to work for a living — he was able to devote himself to writing poetry. He finally became well known when he was in his fifties, and he won the Pulitzer Prize. He's best known today for a few poems that are heavily anthologized, including "Richard Cory," "Miniver Cheevy," and "Mr. Flood's Party."

It's the birthday of composer Giacomo Puccini, born in Lucca, Tuscany (1858). He's the composer of La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (left incomplete at Puccini's death in 1924).

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




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