Sep. 26, 2010

my grandmother had a serious gas
we only saw her on Sunday.
she'd sit down to dinner
and she'd have gas.
she was very heavy,
80 years old.
wore this large glass brooch,
that's what you noticed most
in addition to the gas.
she'd let it go just as food was being served.
she'd let it go loud in bursts
spaced about a minute apart.
she'd let it go
4 or 5 times
as we reached for the potatoes
poured the gravy
cut into the meat.

nobody ever said anything;
especially me.
I was 6 years old.
only my grandmother spoke.
after 4 or 5 blasts
she would say in an offhand way,
"I will bury you all!"

I didn't much like that:
first farting
then saying that.

it happened every Sunday.
she was my father's mother.
every Sunday it was death and gas
and mashed potatoes and gravy
and that big glass brooch.

those Sunday dinners would
always end with apple pie and
ice cream
and a big argument
about something or other,
my grandmother finally running out the door
and taking the red train back to
the place stinking for an hour
and my father walking about
fanning a newspaper in the air and
saying, "it's all that damned sauerkraut
she eats!"

"Gas" by Charles Bukowski, from The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain. © Harper Collins, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Jane Smiley, (books by this author) born in Los Angeles (1949), who said, "A novelist is someone who has volunteered to be a representative of literature and move it forward a generation. That is all." When she was 11 years old, she loved The Hound of the Baskervilles and she wanted to know why it was so good, so she read it over and over until she could figure out exactly how the plot and characters were constructed. She went on to write 13 novels.

Her newest novel is Private Life, published earlier this year. It is the story of Margaret Mayfield, born in Missouri in the 1870s, seemingly destined to die an old maid but rescued from spinsterhood by her determined mother. Twenty-seven-year-old Margaret marries a brilliant local scientist, Andrew Early, who gradually becomes unhinged as he descends into delusional competition with fellow scientists. The bookfollows their lives through the decades in San Francisco, into the 1940s.

It's the birthday of novelist Mark Haddon, (books by this author) born in Northampton, England (1962), the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It's the story of a 15-year-old boy named Christopher Boone who finds his neighbors' dog dead in their yard with a pitchfork sticking out of it, and at first Christopher is accused of killing it, which he did not do. He loves Sherlock Holmes, so he decides to investigate the situation himself. Christopher has Asperger's, and he is observant and highly intelligent, but he has trouble distinguishing between emotions in other people, he doesn't get metaphors or humor, and he cannot lie.

It's the birthday of the poet T.S. Eliot, (books by this author) born Thomas Stearns Eliot in St. Louis (1888).

It was this young Eliot, traveling around Europe as a college student, who wrote a poem about a middle-aged man, full of poignant lines about growing older, with the line, "I grow old ... I grow old ... / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." That poem was "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," published in Poetry magazine when Eliot was 26.

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




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