Feb. 12, 2010

St. Valentine's Day

by Norah Pollard

My father was unable to hug me
or talk to me. He could never say
"I love you." He was too shy.
Too, his mind was in
another world.
But whenever he came home from his journeys,
he'd bring me presents—Little Lady Toilet Water,
that grand midnight blue Stetson,
those many Waterman and Parker pens,
the pocketbook with the brass eagle clasp.
And for all occasions, overblown cards
with the puffy scented satin heart or rose
on the ront. Inside, his scraggy signature,
"To my Paddy, from her Daddy."

When you did not give me
a Valentine today,
I was undone.
And I wept in the shower
even though I am an adult and know
gifts are materialistic shallow
commercially driven wasteful crap.

But why, why could you not have
Wasted some mute love on me?

"St. Valentine's Day" by Norah Pollard, from Death & Rapture in the Animal Kingdom. © Antrim House, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of two men who were born on exactly the same day in 1809: Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln (books by this author) was born on this day near Hodgenville, Kentucky (1809). Though he's generally considered possibly the greatest president in our country's history, fairly little is known about his early life. Unlike most presidents, he never wrote any memoirs. We know that he was born in a log cabin and had barely a year of traditional schooling. His mother died when he was nine, and he spent much of his adolescence working with an ax. But when he was in his early 20s, Lincoln apparently decided to make himself into a respectable man. Residents of the town of New Salem, Illinois, said that they remembered Lincoln just appearing in their town one day. People remembered him because he was one of the tallest people anyone had ever seen, about 6 foot 4, and the pants that he wore were so short that they didn't even cover his ankles.

Charles Darwin (books by this author) was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England (1809). On the famous voyage to the southern tip of South America when he was only 22, Darwin brought with him a book called Principles of Geology by Sir Charles Lyell, which suggested that the earth was millions of years old. And along the journey, Darwin got a chance to explore the Galapagos Islands. These islands were spaced far enough apart that the animals on them had evolved over time into different species.

It took him a long time to publish his findings, mainly because he was afraid of being attacked as an atheist. But about 20 years after he first came up with the idea, he published his book On the Origin of Species (1859).

Valentine's Day is this weekend, and this week we're thinking about love letters from the literary world.

Zelda Fitzgerald, née Sayre, was F. Scott Fitzgerald's (books by this author) great muse and more. He modeled many of his characters after her, and he even included lines in his books that were from letters that Zelda had written him.

The two went on their first date on her 18th birthday. Her family was wary of him, and she wouldn't marry him until his first novel was actually published. Zelda was still 18 when she wrote this letter to Scott in the spring of 1919:

Please, please don't be so depressed — We'll be married soon, and then these lonesome nights will be over forever — Maybe you won't understand this, but sometimes when I miss you most, it's hardest to write — and you always know when I make myself — Just the ache of it all — and I can't tell you.

How can you think deliberately of life without me — If you should die — O Darling — darling Scott — It'd be like going blind. I know I would, too, — I'd have no purpose in life — just a pretty — decoration. Don't you think I was made for you? I feel like you had me ordered — and I was delivered to you — to be worn — I want you to wear me, like a watch-charm or a buttonhole bouquet — to the world. And then, when we're alone, I want to help — to know that you can't do anything without me.

One week after This Side of Paradise appeared in print, Zelda and Scott got married at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. They became known as the quintessential Jazz Age couple: beautiful, flashy, with money, and often drunk in public. The year they married, Zelda wrote to Scott:

"I look down the tracks and see you coming — and out of every haze & mist your darling rumpled trouser are hurrying to me — Without you, dearest dearest, I couldn't see or hear or feel or think — or live — I love you so and I'm never in all our lives going to let us be apart another night. It's like begging for mercy of a storm or killing Beauty or growing old, without you.

Lover, Lover, Darling — Your Wife"

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




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