Sep. 1, 2010


by Carl Dennis

Don't be ashamed that your parents
Didn't happen to meet at an art exhibit
Or at a protest against a foreign policy
Based on fear of negotiation,
But in an aisle of a discount drugstore,
Near the antihistamine section,
Seeking relief from the common cold.
You ought to be proud that even there,
Amid coughs and sneezes,
They were able to peer beneath
The veil of pointless happenstance.
Here is someone, each thought,
Able to laugh at the indignities
That flesh is heir to. Here
Is a person one might care about.
Not love at first sight, but the will
To be ready to endorse the feeling
Should it arise. Had they waited
For settings more promising,
You wouldn't be here,
Wishing things were different.
Why not delight at how young they were
When they made the most of their chances,
How young still, a little later,
When they bought a double plot
At the cemetery. Look at you,
Twice as old now as they were
When they made arrangements,
And still you're thinking of moving on,
Of finding a town with a climate
Friendlier to your many talents.
Don't be ashamed of the homely thought
That whatever you might do elsewhere,
In the time remaining, you might do here
If you can resolve, at last, to pay attention.

"Drugstore" by Carl Dennis, from Callings. © Penguin Poets, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

W.H. Auden, (books by this author) wrote a famous poem about this day, called "September 1, 1939."

It begins:
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odor of death
Offends the September night.
Toward the end of the poem, he says, "We must love one another or die."
"September 1, 1939" became one of Auden's most famous poems.

It was on this day in 1904 that Helen Keller (books by this author) graduated from Radcliffe, the first blind and deaf student to graduate from any college anywhere.

On this day in 1773, Phillis Wheatley (books by this author) published Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, the first book ever published by a former American slave. She was bought by a family in Boston and they found her drawing a wall with chalk. It was clear she was trying to make letters, so the daughter of the family taught her to read. She started to write poetry and no publisher in America would publish it, so she went to London and published it there.

On this day in 1707, Irish writer Richard Steele (books by this author) sat in St. James Coffee House in London and wrote a love letter to Mary Scurlock, whom he wanted to marry.

"Madam — It is the hardest thing in the world to be in love, and yet attend to business. As for me, all who speak to me do find out, and I must lock myself up, or other people will do it for me.

"A gentleman asked me this morning, 'What news from Lisbon?' and I answered, 'She is exquisitely handsome.' Another desired to know 'when I had been last at Hampton Court?' I replied, 'It will be on Tuesday come se'nnight.' Pr'ythee allow me at least to kiss your hand before that day, that my mind may be in some composure. O love!

"A thousand torments dwell about thee,

Yet who would live, to live without thee?"

They got married later in 1707. It was an extraordinarily happy and close companionship, and the couple stayed married until her death in 1718. During their relationship, Richard Steele wrote her more than 400 letters. During that time, he also co-founded The Spectator magazine along with Joseph Addison. Steele once wrote in The Spectator: "Of all the affections which attend human life, the love of glory is the most ardent."

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




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