Sep. 10, 2010

What People Give You

by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

What People Give You

Long-faced irises. Mums.
Pink roses and white roses
and giant sunflowers,
and hundreds of daisies.

Fruit baskets with muscular pears,
and water crackers and tiny jams
and the steady march of casseroles.
And money,
people give money these days.

Cards, of course:
the Madonna, wise
and sad just for you,
Chinese cherry blossoms,
sunsets and moonscapes,
and dragonflies for transcendence.

People stand by your sink
and offer up their pain:
Did you know I lost a baby once,
or My eldest son was killed,
or My mother died two months ago.

People are good.

They file into your cartoon house until it bows at the seams;
they give you every
except your daughter back.

"What People Give You" by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, from Slamming Open the Door. © Alice James Books, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the Austrian playwright and poet Franz Werfel, (books by this author) born in Prague (1890), author of The Song of Bernadette (1941). He had promised the Saint Bernadette of Lourdes that he would write a book about her if he escaped Nazi France. And so he did when he reached the United States.

It's the birthday of the poet who wrote under the initials H.D., Hilda Doolittle, (books by this author) born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1886). She met Ezra Pound when she was a teenager and they fell in love, but her father forced her to break off the relationship. They stayed friends, and Pound brought her armfuls of books to read every day. She followed him to Europe, and when she showed him some of her poems, he loved them and sent them to Poetry magazine, signing them for her, "H.D. Imagist." He invented a new school of poetry based on her work that he called Imagism, which broke from formal metered verse and used clear, simple language to describe the world. She went on to publish many collections of poetry, including Sea Garden (1916) and Red Roses for Bronze (1929). She wrote, "To sing love, / love must first shatter us."

It's the birthday of evolutionary biologist and science historian Stephen Jay Gould, (books by this author) born in Queens, New York, on this day in 1941, the son of an artist and a court reporter. He's known for his essays on natural history, and for explaining really complicated scientific theories in a way that most people can understand them.

He's the author of about a dozen volumes of essays subtitled "Reflections in Natural History," including The Panda's Thumb (1980), Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983), The Flamingo's Smile (1985), Bully for Brontosaurus (1991), and Dinosaur in a Haystack (1995).

He campaigned against the teaching of creationism, but wasn't anti-religious. Gould once said, "If there is any consistent enemy of science, it is not religion, but irrationalism." He argued that science and religion shouldn't be viewed as opposed to each other, but simply distinct from each other: non-overlapping disciplines that shouldn't be used to try to explain aspects of the other. The National Academy of Sciences adopted his stance, saying officially a decade ago: "Demanding that they [religion and science] be combined detracts from the glory of each."

Among his best-known works are the treatises The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Full House (1996), and Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (1998). He taught at Harvard for most of his life, and later at NYU.

Stephen Jay Gould died from cancer in 2002 at the age of 60. Published posthumously were his books The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox: Mending the Gap between Science and the Humanities (2003) and Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: A Lifelong Passion for Baseball (2003).

He once said, "Science is not a heartless pursuit of objective information; it is a creative human activity."

It's the birthday of American poet Mary Oliver (books by this author) born in Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland (1935). She has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and she's one of the best-selling poets in America.

She's also written some books of prose, including A Poetry Handbook (1994), Blue Pastures (1995), and Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse (1998).
Mary Oliver wrote: "Every day I walk out into the world / to be dazzled, then to be reflective."

It was on this day in 1981 that Picasso's famous painting Guernica was returned to Spain to hang in the Prado Museum in Madrid. Picasso refused to allow it to be shown in Spain until the rule of General Franco ended.

Pablo Picasso said, "Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy."

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




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