Mar. 20, 2010

All Night Long

by Anne Pierson Wiese

The First warm evening in spring—the evening
on which you no longer feel the air's
temperature and are only aware
of it as an invisibility draped
with sounds: laughter from open windows,
the idle of cars pausing at the curb,
abdominal wails presaging a cat
fight in some dark, disputed corner; draped
with smells: through a side door propped ajar fish
hitting hot oil, dust or mold from the pit
of a deserted construction site, the soil
in front gardens after rain, released
and crumbled from beneath by the numberless
green thumbs of spring's long reach up
out of the ground. A young man waits on the stoop
of a six-floor walkup with the posture
of someone who expects to wait
for a long time. What you imagine to be
his earthly possessions are beside him
in a shopping cart, along with a roll
of rubber foam, neatly tied. You imagine
he had come knowing there will be no bed,
only floor space in one of the apartments
above. You can't imagine more than this, so you
walk up the fading street to where the first
crocuses are out, each one a small, violet-shuttered
hesitation imbued with its own brevity,
knowing neither happiness nor grief.

"All Night Long" by Anne Pierson Wiese, from Floating City. © Louisiana State University Press, 2007. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today the Earth is tilted so that the sun is shining directly on the equator at noon, because today is the spring equinox, the first day of spring. The word equinox comes from Latin meaning "equal night,"because today the length of daytime and nighttime will be almost equal.The Earth tilts on its axis as it rotates around the sun, and the equinoxes (which begin spring and fall) mark those times when the sun is directly above the equator at noon. Today, the vernal equinox, is the start of spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of fall in the Southern Hemisphere.

And the vernal equinox signifies Nowruz,the Persian New Year, celebrated by Iranians around the world. They celebrate with an extensive spring cleaning, honoring the dead, and the exchange of gifts, food, and visits.

Robert Frost (books by this author) wrote: "Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today; / And give us not to think so far away / As the uncertain harvest; keep us here / All simply in the springing of the year."

It's the birthday of Henrik Ibsen, (books by this author) born in Skien, Norway (1828). He came from an old, prominent Norwegian family, but when Henrik was a boy, his father lost all their money, and they were forced to move to a run-down farmhouse in the country. Their former friends wouldn't associate with them any more, and everyone in the family was miserable, including Henrik, who spent most of his time playing by himself. He left home at age 16 and never went back.

His ambition in life was to become a poet. Eventually, one of his poems was accepted as a prologue to a play, and the manager was sufficiently impressed to offer Ibsen work in the theater. He worked as a manager, writer, producer, and director, but he wasn't writing original work. He worked in theaters in Norway and Denmark for 13 years, but he was struggling financially and frustrated with Scandinavia, so he moved to Italy with his wife and son, and he did not return to Norway for almost 30 years. It was while he was living abroad that he wrote all the plays that made him famous: Peer Gynt (1867), A Doll's House (1879), An Enemy of the People (1882), The Wild Duck (1884), and Hedda Gabler (1890).

It's the birthday of the Roman poet Ovid, (books by this author) born Publius Ovidius Naso in what is now Sulmo, Italy (43 B.C.) He became a famous, beloved poet in Rome, privy to the inner circles of the court. He published erotic poems, including his Ars Amatoria (2 C.E.),which instructed people on the arts of seduction and lovemaking. And he wrote Metamorphoses (8 C.E.), for which he is best remembered today, which traces Greek and Roman mythology through the lens of humans' metamorphoses into other objects — plants, stones, stars, and animals.

But then suddenly, in 8 C.E., he was exiled, and even today no one knows why. In his writings, he talks about Emperor Augustus' anger toward him, and he alludes to having seen something he shouldn't have seen, but nothing more specific. Whatever the reason, Ovid was miserable in exile. He had been sent to Tomi, in what is now Romania, and he was isolated and lonely, longing for his beloved Rome. But even after Augustus died, the next emperor, Tiberius, did not allow Ovid back, and he died in Tomi after about 10 years in exile.

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




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