Mar. 23, 2010

Plastic Beatitude

by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

            Our neighbors, the Pazzotis, live in a long
narrow canary-yellow house with Mrs. Pazzotti's old
father, their 2 daughters, their husbands, 4 kids,
a tortoise shell cat and a white poodle.
            Their yard is my childhood dream: toys,
bicycles, tubs, bird cages, barbeques, planters, pails, tools
and garden sculptures: an orange squirrel eating a nut,
Mickey Mouse pushing a wheelbarrow, St. Joseph
carrying a lantern, his other blessing hand
broken at the wrist, and two tea-sipping toads
in an S-shaped love seat, smiling at each other
under a polka-dotted parasol.
            On the yellow railing around the deck,
a procession of nine pinwheels. This May morning,
they thrash the air with each breeze like clumsy
angels nailed to their posts. On the garage wall
at the end of the yard an electric cord
shoots up to the roof. One half connects to a blue
neon insect electrocuter, the other half snakes to, then
disappears into a pedestal cemented on the cornice.
            And there she stands, in plastic
beatitude—and six feet of it—the Madonna,
in her white robe and blue cape, arms
outstretched, blessing the Pazottis, their yard
and neighbors, lit from within day and night,
calling God's little insects to her shining light,
before sending them straight
            to the zapper—tiny buzzing heretics
fried by the same power that lured them
to their last temptation.

"Plastic Beatitude" by Laure-Anne Bosselaar, from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. © BOA Editions, Ltd, 1997. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1775 that Patrick Henry gave a speech to the Second Virginia Convention, proposing that the colony arm itself against the king to fight for independence. Almost no one spoke openly of armed rebellion because it was considered treason against the king. Those convicted of treason could be sent back to England to be hanged. Patrick Henry spoke against the king as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. When he compared King George III to Brutus, the assassin of Caesar, someone in the House shouted, "Treason!" Henry responded, "If this be treason, then make the most of it."

He took the floor on this day, in 1775, and made his most famous speech. Patrick Henry said: "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

It's the birthday of Gary Joseph Whitehead, (books by this author) born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (1965). He's a poet, and he's also cruciverbalist — that is, a person who constructs crossword puzzles. The crossword puzzles that he's created have appeared in newspapers across the nation, including The New York Times.

He's the author of several chapbooks of poetry, a couple of which won national awards. His first full-length collection came out in 2004; it's called The Velocity of Dust. In 2005, he received a PEN grant, took a sabbatical from teaching, and moved to a remote cabin in the mountainous wilderness of southwestern Oregon to live in solitude for six-months and write. His most recent collection is composed almost entirely of the poems he wrote during his time there. Toward the end of his stay in Oregon, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. He titled that collection, which was published in 2008, Measuring Cubits While the Thunder Claps.

It's the birthday of Mitch Cullin, (books by this author) born in Santa Fe, New Mexico (1968), to Scotch-Irish and Cherokee parents. He's the author of seven novels, including a novel in verse, Branches (2000), which is the second book of his Texas Trilogy. The third book of the trilogy, entitled Tideland (2005), is a surrealist tale about an 11-year-old girl named Jeliza-Rose who is abandoned in a dilapidated farmhouse in rural Texas, alone and with just Barbie doll heads to keep her company. The book won widespread acclaim; reviewers compared Mitch Cullin to William Faulkner and Harper Lee and other Southern writers, and some said that his book Tideland was like Alice in Wonderland meeting Psycho.

His novel A Slight Trick of the Mind (2005) is a sort of revisionist biographical sketch of the detective Sherlock Holmes as he's growing old, walking with a cane and beginning to go senile. It's also being made into a movie. Mitch Cullin's most recent book is The Post-War Dream (2008).

It's the birthday of the man who won the 1937 Nobel Prize in literature, French author Roger Martin du Gard, (books by this author) born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France (1881). His life's work was chronicling the fictional Thibault family in a series of novels known as Les Thibault, which he published over the course of two decades, from 1922 to 1940. It's considered a roman-fleuve, a French term that literally means "river-novel." It refers to a series of novels written by one author that are about the same few characters (often family members) — usually a saga where the historical backdrop plays a prominent role in the fiction, and the author often provides a sort of running commentary on the era.

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




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