Apr. 21, 2010

After a Noisy Night

by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

            The man I love enters the kitchen
with a groan, he just
woke up, his hair a Rorschach test.
A minty kiss, a hand
on my neck, coffee, two percent milk,
microwave. He collapses
on a chair, stunned with sleep,
yawns, groans again, complains
about his dry sinuses and crusted nose.
            I want to tell him how
much he slept, how well,
the cacophony of his snoring
pumping in long wheezes
and throttles—the debacle
of rhythm—hours erratic
with staccato of pants and puffs,
crescendi of gulps, chokes,
pectoral sputters and spits.
            But the microwave goes ding!
A short little ding! sharp
as a guillotine—loud enough to stop
my words from killing the moment.
            And during the few seconds
it takes the man I love
to open the microwave, stir,
sip and sit there staring
at his mug, I remember the vows
I made to my pillows, to fate
and God: I'll stop eating licorice,
become a blonde, a lumberjack,
a Catholic, anything,
but bring a man to me:
            so I go to him: Sorry, honey,
sorry you had such a rough night
hold his gray head against my heart
and kiss him, kiss him.

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

It's the birthday of writer and naturalist John Muir (books by this author) born in Dunbar, Scotland (1838). He fell in love with the Sierra Mountains in California and spent much of his time hiking and camping there. He was largely responsible for the creation of Yosemite National Park in 1890, and in 1892, he helped found the Sierra Club. He published many books, including The Mountains of California (1894).

It's the birthday of Charlotte Brontë (books by this author) born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England (1816). She's the oldest of the three famous Brontë sisters. Anne wrote Agnes Grey (1847), Emily wrote Wuthering Heights (1847), and Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre (1847), about a smart, passionate governess working for a mysterious man named Mr. Rochester.

Wuthering Heights got mostly good reviews, and Jane Eyre was an even bigger success. But as soon as critics started to suspect that the novels were written by women, they turned against them, calling them "coarse," "unfeminine," and "anti-Christian." Within two years of the publication of Jane Eyre, all of Charlotte's siblings had died. She continued to write novels, including Villette (1853), but she was often sick and usually unhappy. She married her father's curate in 1854 but died soon after from complications with her pregnancy.

It was on this day 100 years ago that the man who's often quoted as saying "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated" did, in fact, really die. What Mark Twain (books by this author) actually said to the journalist who came to his door in 1897 to investigate his presumed fatality was "The report of my death is an exaggeration," but the various misquotes about Mark Twain's denial of death have taken on lives of their own.

It wasn't the first time Twain would be forced to fend off rumors about his death. A decade after his legendary repudiation, The New York Times printed a premature obituary for Mr. Twain. He'd taken a steamboat trip with some friends from New York to Virginia for the Jamestown Exposition of 1907. While they were there, thick fog nestled in along the coast, reducing visibility and making it temporarily unsafe to travel by boat. Twain's friends opted for alternative transportation and took the train, but Twain didn't really like rail travel, so he decided to wait till the fog cleared and then return by boat.

So he was delayed. By now he was a huge American celebrity with reporters tracking his whereabouts. When he didn't appear in the New York Harbor on the day he was scheduled to arrive, The New York Times ran a story announcing that he must be "lost at sea."

A couple weeks later, the 71-year-old Mark Twain wrote up a mock article for The New York Times,which ran under the headline: "MARK TWAIN INVESTIGATING. And If the Report That He's Lost at Sea is So, He'll Let the Public Know."

Two years after the lost-at-sea speculation, in 1909, 73-year-old Mark Twain proclaimed: "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'"

He was eerily accurate in his prescience. He died of a heart attack that next year, on this day exactly one century ago — April 21, 1910 — at the age of 74, precisely one day after Halley's Comet's closest approach to Earth. He was buried next to his wife in Upstate New York. His only surviving child placed next to his grave a monument that was 12 feet long, or two fathoms deep — the depth at which it's safe for an average steamboat to pass, a riverboat expression known as "Mark Twain," from which Samuel Clemens chose his pen name.

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




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