Mar. 13, 2012

Full Circle

by Alden Nowlan

In my youth, no one spoke of love
where I lived, except I spoke of it,
and then only in the dark. The word was known
like the name of a city on another continent.
No one called anyone his friend,
although they had friends. Perhaps they were afraid
to commit so much of themselves,
to demand so much of others; for if they'd said,
"We're friends," as they never did,
it would have been a contract.
As it was, they could quarrel,
even hit one another if they were drunk,
and remain friends, never having said it.
Where nothing was sworn there could be no betrayal.
Nor did they touch
casually; their persons seemed to occupy
more space than their bodies did.
Seeing an adult run we'd have looked first for the reason
in the direction from which he came. We never met trains;
my people were like that.
                                              It was not enough for me.
"I love you," I said.
Whispered it, painfully, and was laughed at;
hid until the wounds healed and said it again,
              muttered it.
Wanting to be loved, "I love you," was what I said.
And I learned to touch, as a legless man
learns to walk again.
                                      Came to live among people
who called anyone a friend
who was not an enemy, to whom there were no strangers:
because there were so many, they were invisible.
Now, like everyone else, I send
postcards to acquaintances, With Love—
Love meaning, I suppose, that I remember the recipients
kindly and wish them well. But I say it
less often and will not be surprised
at myself if the time comes when I do not say it,
when I do not touch, except desperately, when I ask
nothing more of others, but greet them with a wink,
as my grandfather might have done, looking up
for an instant from his carpenter's bench.

"Full Circle" by Alden Nowlan, from What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread. © The Thousands Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this date in 2003, the journal Nature reported the discovery of 350,000-year-old fossilized human footprints in Italy. They are arguably the oldest known human footprints; an older set, dating back three and a half million years, was discovered in Tanzania in 1979, but they probably belonged to hominids not directly related to our species, Homo sapiens.

The Italian footprints reported in Nature are about eight inches long and four inches wide, and their makers were probably no taller than five feet.

Thousands of people reported mysterious lights over Arizona on this date in 1997.

It began around 8:00 p.m., when a man in Henderson, Nevada, saw a V-shaped object "the size of a 747," with six lights on its leading edge. The lights moved from northwest to southeast; over the course of the next hour, sightings were reported throughout Arizona, as far south as Tucson — a distance of nearly 400 miles. One cement truck driver reported that the lights hovered over Phoenix for more than two hours, and said: "I'll never be the same. Before this, if anybody had told me they saw a UFO, I would've said, 'Yeah and I believe in the Tooth Fairy.' Now I've got a whole new view and I may be just a dumb truck driver, but I've seen something that don't belong here."

It's the birthday of Janet Flanner (books by this author), born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1892). She moved to New York City in her 20s to become a writer, and became friends with Jane Grant. Grant's husband, Harold Ross, was an editor, and he was thinking of starting his own magazine. In 1922, Flanner took a trip to Paris, and decided to settle there, one of several American expatriates that included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. She wrote letters home to Grant and her other friends. Harold Ross, who was just launching his new magazine, asked if she would write for The New Yorker. So she began her Letters from Paris column, which ran for 50 years, from 1925 to 1975. Through her column, Flanner introduced her American readership to such rising Parisian artists as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Edith Piaf. Her style fit the magazine's aesthetic well; her prose was sophisticated, witty, and urbane.

She's best known for the Letters from Paris column, but she also provided commentary during World War II. She wrote about European politics and culture, published a piece about Hitler's rise to power in 1936, and covered the Nuremburg trials in 1945.

She once said that of all the work she did for the magazine, she was most proud of her 1936 piece on Hitler.

In her profile, titled "Führer," she wrote:

"Being self-taught, his mental processes are mysterious; he is missionary-minded; his thinking is emotional, his conclusions material. He has been studious with strange results: he says he regards liberalism as a form of tyranny, hatred and attack as part of man's civic virtues, and equality of men as immoral and against nature. Since he is a concentrated, introspective dogmatist, he is uninformed by exterior criticism. On the other hand, he is a natural and masterly advertiser, a phenomenal propagandist within his limits, the greatest mob orator in German annals, and one of the most inventive organizers in European history. He believes in intolerance as a pragmatic principle. He accepts violence as a detail of state, he says mercy is not his affair with men, yet he is kind to dumb animals. ... His moods change often, his opinions never. Since the age of twenty, they have been mainly anti-Semitic, anti-Communist, anti-suffrage, and Pan-German. He has a fine library of six thousand volumes, yet he never reads; books would do him no good — his mind is made up."

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




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