Feb. 25, 2009

Bridal Shower

by George Bilgere

Perhaps, in a distant café,
four or five people are talking
with the four or five people
who are chatting on their cell phones this morning
in my favorite café.

And perhaps someone there,
someone like me, is watching them as they frown,
or smile, or shrug
at their invisible friends or lovers,
jabbing the air for emphasis.

And, like me, he misses the old days,
when talking to yourself
meant you were crazy,
back when being crazy was a big deal,
not just an acronym
or something you could take a pill for.

I liked it
when people who were talking to themselves
might actually have been talking to God
or an angel.
You respected people like that.

You didn't want to kill them,
as I want to kill the woman at the next table
with the little blue light on her ear
who has been telling the emptiness in front of her
about her daughter's bridal shower
in astonishing detail
for the past thirty minutes.

O person like me,
phoneless in your distant café,
I wish we could meet to discuss this,
and perhaps you would help me
murder this woman on her cell phone,

after which we could have a cup of coffee,
maybe a bagel, and talk to each other,
face to face.

"Bridal Shower" by George Bilgere. Reprinted with permission.

It's the birthday of the Chinese-American novelist and playwright Frank Chin, (books by this author) born in Berkeley, California (1940). He's the author of The Chickencoop Chinaman (1972), Donald Duk (1991), Gunga Din Highway (1994), and Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947 (2002).

In The Chickencoop Chinaman, Chin writes, "I am the natural born ragmouth speaking the motherless bloody tongue. No real language of my own to make sense with, so out comes everybody else's trash that don't conceive. ... I am a Chinaman! A miracle synthetic! Drip dry and machine washable."

It's the birthday of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, born in Limoges, France (1841). When he was 13, he was apprenticed to a porcelain painter, and he saved money to take night classes in drawing and anatomy. One of his classmates was Claude Monet. Renoir and Monet and their friends wanted to reject tradition — to paint light and to paint from life instead of sketching everything out first in a studio. These ideas became known as Impressionism. Renoir used the techniques of Impressionism, but while most of his friends painted landscapes, he painted people.

It's the birthday of novelist Anthony Burgess, (books by this author) born on this day in Manchester, England (1917). He went off and taught in Malaysia. He didn't even want to go there, but he was drunk when he filled out the application and didn't realize where he was applying. In Malaysia, he was often in trouble with the police and with his supervisors, and his marriage fell apart. But during his five years there, Anthony Burgess found his voice as a novelist. He wrote a trilogy of novels, Time for a Tiger (1956), The Enemy in the Blanket (1958), and Beds in the East (1959).

Then he collapsed on the floor of his classroom, was flown from Malaysia to London, and doctors told him that he had a brain tumor and only one year to live. So he began writing as fast as he could. He didn't have a brain tumor, he didn't die, but he kept writing novels as quickly as possible, and in three years he published nine more novels. He went on to write more than 50 books, including A Clockwork Orange (1962), Enderby Outside (1968), and Earthly Powers (1980).

It's the birthday of opera star Enrico Caruso, born in Naples (1873). He worked in factories as a teenager, but he had a beautiful tenor voice and he ran away from home to sing. In 1903, he moved to New York to sing for the Metropolitan Opera, and by the end of his first season, audiences went into hysterics when he sang, mobbing the stage and screaming his name.

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




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show