Dec. 27, 2008

In Passing

by Ted Kooser

From a half block off I see you coming,
walking briskly along, carrying parcels,
furtively glancing up into the faces
of people approaching, looking for someone
you know, holding your smile in your mouth
like a pebble, keeping it moist and ready,
being careful not to swallow.

I know that hope so open on your face,
know how your heart would lift to see just one
among us who remembered. If only someone
would call out your name, would smile,
so happy to see you again. You shift
your heavy parcels, hunch up your shoulders,
and press ahead into the moment.

From a few feet away, you recognize me,
or think you do. I see you preparing your face,
getting your greeting ready. Do I know you?
Both of us wonder. Swiftly we meet and pass,
averting our eyes, close enough to touch,
but not touching. I could not let you know
that I've forgotten, and yet you know.

"In Passing" by Ted Kooser, from Weather Central. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the week of Christmas, and there are plenty of classic movies for the holiday season.

White Christmas is a film from 1954, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, and featuring songs by Irving Berlin — including, of course, "White Christmas." It's the story of two World War II Army buddies, Bob and Phil, who become a successful song-and-dance team. They meet Betty and Judy, a sister act, and the four of them go up to a lodge in Vermont, which is run by Bob and Phil's former Army commander. He is about to go bankrupt because there is no snow, and therefore, no guests. So they put on a variety show at the lodge, on Christmas Eve, and they make enough money to save it. Betty and Bob are in love, Phil and Judy are in love, and it begins to snow. And they all sing, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know."

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on CBS in 1965, and it has been shown every year since then. Charlie Brown is depressed about Christmas — he thinks it's too materialistic. Plus, nobody sends him Christmas cards. He tries to direct the Christmas pageant, but he gets even more frustrated. Lucy sends him to get a big aluminum Christmas tree. But Charlie Brown finds a real tree, which is also the smallest, ugliest tree in the lot. Everyone is furious with Charlie Brown when he brings it back. It turns into a big fight, until finally Linus walks onto the stage and says, "'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.' That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

A Christmas Story is a movie from 1983. It's set in 1940 in Hohman, Indiana. The only thing that nine-year-old Ralph wants for Christmas is a Red Rider BB gun, but his mom, his teacher, and even Santa Claus tell him the exact same thing: "You'll shoot your eye out!" But on Christmas morning, Ralph finally gets what he wants, although he sets off a chain of events that lands the whole family eating Christmas dinner in a Chinese restaurant.

It's the birthday of novelist and essayist Wilfrid Sheed, (books by this author) born in London, England, in 1930. He went back and forth between England and the United States as he was growing up. He went to Oxford and wrote a novel about it, called A Middle Class Education (1961). His other novels include The Hack (1963) and Max Jamison (1970).

It's the birthday of the poet Charles Olson, (books by this author) born in Worcester, Massachusetts (1910). He advocated for a kind of poetry that he called "Projective Verse," free of meter or rhyme, and concerned more with the sounds of words than with their sense. He spent most of his life writing an epic series of poems called The Maximus Poems, about the history of Gloucester, Massachusetts, the coastal town where he spend his summers as a child.

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




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