Feb. 20, 2009


by Diane Lockward

It was always linguini between us.
Linguini with white sauce, or
red sauce, sauce with basil snatched from
the garden, oregano rubbed between
our palms, a single bay leaf adrift amidst
plum tomatoes. Linguini with meatballs,
sausage, a side of brascioli. Like lovers
trying positions, we enjoyed it every way
we could-artichokes, mushrooms, little
neck clams, mussels, and calamari-linguini
twining and braiding us each to each.
Linguini knew of the kisses, the smooches,
the molti baci. It was never spaghetti
between us, not cappellini, nor farfalle,
vermicelli, pappardelle, fettucini, perciatelli,
or even tagliarini. Linguini we stabbed, pitched,
and twirled on forks, spun round and round
on silver spoons. Long, smooth, and always
al dente. In dark trattorias, we broke crusty panera,
toasted each other—La dolce vita!—and sipped
Amarone, wrapped ourselves in linguini,
briskly boiled, lightly oiled, salted, and lavished
with sauce. Bellissimo, paradisio, belle gente!
Linguini witnessed our slurping, pulling, and
sucking, our unraveling and raveling, chins
glistening, napkins tucked like bibs in collars,
linguini stuck to lips, hips, and bellies, cheeks
flecked with formaggio—parmesan, romano,
and shaved pecorino—strands of linguini flung
around our necks like two fine silk scarves.

"Linguini" by Diane Lockward, from What Feeds Us. © Wind Publications, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of photographer Ansel Adams, born in San Francisco, California (1902). He spent a lot of time wandering in the wild places of the San Francisco area, hiking on the dunes or exploring Lobos Creek. When he was a teenager, he went to Yosemite National Park and took his first photographs with a Kodak Box Brownie camera. He persuaded the owner of a photo-finishing plant to take him on as a darkroom apprentice. Every summer he traveled to Yosemite, trying to take better and better photos. Looking out at the mountains, he said, "The silver light turned every blade of grass and every particle of sand into a luminous metallic splendor." He wanted to take photos that captured every blade of grass and particle of sand in perfect focus.

He served on the Sierra Club's board of directors for almost 40 years, and he allowed his photographs to be reprinted in calendars and books, hoping they would inspire people to protect wilderness areas. He died in 1984, and Congress approved the creation of Ansel Adams Wilderness, which preserved more than 200,000 acres of land near Yosemite.

It's the birthday of singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain, born in Hoquiam, Washington (1967). Three weeks before his high school graduation, he dropped out, got a job as a janitor, and started playing in local rock bands. He eventually settled on one band, and they saved up $606 dollars to record their first album, Bleach (1989), under the name Nirvana. People liked it, and the group signed to a major label for their next album, Nevermind (1991), which has sold more than 26 million copies. Kurt Cobain became a celebrity, which he hated. He became addicted to heroin, and in 1994, he committed suicide at his home in Seattle.

It's the birthday of the filmmaker Robert Altman, born in Kansas City, Missouri (1925). He was a bomber pilot during World War II. When he came home from the war, he had no idea what to do, so he started making movies. He worked on industrial films for corporations in Kansas City, and then he made his own movie, a teen drama called The Delinquents (1957), and then a biographical film, The James Dean Story (1956). He got noticed in Hollywood, and he began writing and directing TV shows.

He developed a new style of dialogue. He put a microphone and a camera on each of the actors in a scene, and he encouraged them to improvise dialogue and to interrupt each other and have more than one conversation at once. The first film where he tried out this new style was about a group of military surgeons in the Korean War. That was M*A*S*H (1970), and it was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year.

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