Jul. 16, 2012

The Impossible

by Richard Jones

We could be together now,
years later,
sitting on my tattered sofa,
you with your root beer,
me with my bourbon,
watching TV as I explain
the beautiful art of baseball.
Bottom of the eleventh:
the Cubs came back
with three in the ninth to tie
and now the impossible
happens—a rookie,
just up from the minors,
pinch-hits and wins the game.
I am trying to tell
the significance of this.
You snuggle under my arm
and listen,
looking first at me,
then at the television.
But you are still young
and don't understand
though you know enough of love
to look at me
and tell me that you do.

"The Impossible" by Richard Jones, from The Blessing. © Copper Canyon Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is the birthday of St. Clare of Assisi, born on this date in 1194. She was born Chiara Offreduccio, daughter of the wealthy Count of Sasso-Rosso. As a teenager, she often heard the young Francis of Assisi preaching the gospel and was impressed by stories of how he cared for the lepers outside the city. At 18, she ran away in the middle of the night to give her vows to him. Francis cut her hair, dressed her in black, and brought her to a group of Benedictine nuns. Later, he moved her to the Church of San Damiano, where she lived a lifestyle of extreme poverty. Clare viewed poverty as a joyful privilege because it enabled her to live the way that Jesus had lived. As more women joined them, the order became known as the "Poor Ladies," and eventually the Order of St. Clare, or the "Poor Clares." They spent their time in prayer and manual labor, and refused to own any property. Francis named Clare the abbess of San Damiano in 1216, putting her in charge. When Francis became sick and blind, Clare took care of him until his death in 1226.

In 1958, Pope Pius XII designated St. Clare as the patron saint of television because when she became bedridden near the end of her life, it's said that she was able to see and hear an image of the Mass on the wall of her room.

On this date in 1936, photographer Walker Evans began work on a project documenting the Great Depression. He was working for the photographic section of the Farm Security Administration, and he requested a leave of absence to work on a summer assignment for Fortune magazine. He was granted the leave on the condition that the photos he took would be considered government property. Evans, along with writer James Agee, went to Hale County, Alabama, to document the effects of the Great Depression on poor tenant farmers. For two months that summer, they traveled among the poor white cotton farmers, and got to know three families, whom Agee referred to as the Gudgers, the Ricketts, and the Woods. Their goal was a purely documentary one; they didn't want the images to be used for political or artistic purposes, but rather as an unflinching record.

Fortune wasn't happy with the outcome, declining to publish the piece, unless Agee rewrote it. He refused, and eventually Agee and Evans published it as a full-length book in 1941. It didn't sell well, and went out of print, but it was reissued in 1960, three years after Agee's death. The photos are now among the most famous images of the Great Depression.

Walker said: "Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long."

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (books by this author), was published on this date in 1951. It's about a 16-year-old prep school boy named Holden Caulfield, who is fed up with all the "phonies" and wants to go live in a cabin in California. The book took Salinger 10 years to write, and it was at one time the most banned book and the most frequently taught book in the country.

The book begins, "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

And later, Holden says: "I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all."

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




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