Apr. 27, 2010

My Father's Corpse

by Andrew Hudgins

He lay stone still, pretended to be dead.
My brothers and I, tiny, swarmed over him
like puppies. He wouldn't move. We tickled him
tracing our fingers up and down his huge
misshapen feet — then armpits, belly, face.
He wouldn't move. We pushed small fingers up
inside his nostrils, wiggled them, and giggled.
He wouldn't move. We peeled his eyelids back,
stared into those motionless, blurred circles. Still,
he wouldn't, didn't move. Then we, alarmed,
poked, prodded his great body urgently.
Diddy, are you okay? Are you okay?
He didn't move. I reared back, gathered speed,
and slammed my forehead on his face. He rose,
he rose up roaring, scattered us from his body
and, as he raged, we sprawled at his feet thrilled
to have the resurrected bastard back.

"My Father's Corpse" by Andrew Hudgins, from American Rendering: New and Selected Poems. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the week of May Day, and we're looking at writers' letters and journal entries as they observe and celebrate the spring.

But April 27th, 1922, was not a joyful spring day in England, and in fact the whole month of April was unpleasant that year. The English novelist Virginia Woolf (books by this author) wrote in her diary on this day: "Just back [...] & fingers are so cold I can't close them on my pen. It is blackening for another downpour. This is the worst spring on record. Twenty-seven days of bitter wind, blinding rain, gusts, snowstorms, storms every day."

In April of 1858, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (books by this author) wrote to Alexandra Tolstoy, his aunt twice-removed and his closest confidante. He called her babushka,or grandmother, as a sort of joke, although she wasn't much older than him. He wrote:

"Babushka! It's spring! It is so good to be alive on this earth, for all good people and even for such as I. Nature, the air, everything is drenched in hope, future, a wonderful future. ... When I think about it more soberly, I know perfectly well I am nothing but an old frozen potato, rotten, cooked and served up with a tasteless sauce full of lumps, but the springtime has such a powerful effect on me that I sometimes catch myself imagining I am a plant that has just opened and spread its leaves among all the other plants and is going to grow up simply, peacefully and joyfully on the good Lord's earth. ... Make way for this wonderful plant that is filling out its buds and growing in the spring."

The children's writer Louisa May Alcott (books by this author) kept a journal in which she noted down a few words or sentences for each month. In her entry for April of 1863, she wrote: "Had some pleasant walks and drives and felt as if born again everything seemed so beautiful and new."

It's the birthday of playwright August Wilson, (books by this author) born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1945). His plays include Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), Fences (1987), and The Piano Lesson (1990).

Wilson said: "Confront the dark parts of yourself. ... Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing."

It's the birthday of Anglo-Irish writer Mary Wollstonecraft, (books by this author) born in London in 1759, one of the first modern feminists. Her father was a drunkard and a brute who abused her mother and squandered the family's money on poorly planned farming ventures. She rebelled against him and left home when she was 19 years old.

In 1790, she wrote her first major essay, Vindication of the Rights of Man,defending the ideals behind the French Revolution. Two years later, she published the work for which she became famous, Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), which argues in favor of equality between the sexes.

She said, "I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves."

It's the birthday of the man who created the Left Behind series of novels, Tim LaHaye, (books by this author) born in Detroit, Michigan (1926). His father was a machine repairman who died of a heart attack when LaHaye was nine years old. His mother had to take a job at a Ford factory to support the family. LaHaye took comfort in his local church, and when he took a job at a Christian summer camp, he began preaching. He went on to study at Bob Jones University and became an evangelical minister.

He decided that a fictional story about what might happen after the Rapture might appeal to a mass audience and persuade more people to become Christians. But he didn't think he had the talent to write fiction, so he collaborated with a former sports writer named Jerry B. Jenkins.

The first book they wrote together was called Left Behind (1995), about an airline pilot named Rayford Steele who is flying a plane when several passengers disappear. There are 16 books in the Left Behind series, and the books have sold almost 70 million copies.

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
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