Jan. 15, 2014


by Samuel Hazo

What purpose have they but to rub
    skin dry by being drawn behind
    the back two-handed down
    the showered spine or fluffed
    between the thighs and elsewhere?
Yardgoods lack what towels
    proffer in sheer, plump tuft.
Wadded after use and flung
    in hampers to be washed, they clump
    like the tired laundry of men
    who sweat for a living.
                                                    Spun dry
    or spreadeagled to the sun,
    they teach us what renewal means.
Touch them when they're stacked or racked,
    and what you're touching is abundance
    in waiting.
                          Imprinted with the names
    of Hilton or the Ritz, they daub
    with equal deft the brows
    of bandits or the breasts of queens.
What else did Pilate reach for
    when he washed his hands of Christ
    before the multitudes?
    when retired to the afterlife of rags,
    they still can buff the grills
    of Chryslers, Fallingwater's windows
    or important shoes.
    small, it seems they have
    their part to play.
                                                    But then,
    en route from use to uselessness,
    it's no small asset ever
    to be always good at something.

"Towels" by Samuel Hazo from The Song of the Horse. © Autumn House Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The French playwright, actor, and manager Molière (books by this author) was baptized in Paris on this date in 1622. He was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin to a wealthy family; his father was upholsterer to the king. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but instead Poquelin took up with a theatrical family, the Béjarts, when he was 21. They formed a troupe and put on comedies, and he adopted the stage name of Molière. The theatrical life wasn't as lucrative as a law career, though. After serving time in debtors' prison, Molière and his company left Paris to tour the provinces for 13 years. They returned to Paris, triumphant, in 1658, after impressing the king's brother with their performance of The Amorous Doctor. Although he poked fun at the peasant and bourgeois classes, he was careful to leave the church and the monarchy alone; as a result, he never ran into trouble, enjoyed the patronage of Louis XIV — who was the godfather of Molière's first son — and always had work.

Known as the father of French comedic theatre, Molière wrote The School for Wives (1662), Tartuffe (1664), and The Misanthrope (1666). He collapsed onstage during a performance of his Le Malade Imaginaire (The Hypochondriac) in 1673; he finished the performance, but died of pulmonary tuberculosis later that night, and because there was no priest around to administer the Last Rites, he was denied a sanctified burial. After his widow appealed to the king, Molière was buried in the section of the cemetery reserved for unbaptized babies.

It's the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. (books by this author), born on this day in Atlanta (1929). He is best known for his work as a leader during the civil rights movement and his commitment to nonviolence. On April 4th, 1967, King delivered a speech called "Beyond Vietnam," in which he strongly denounced America's involvement in the Vietnam War. He was concerned that the war was recruiting poor and minority soldiers, that it was draining resources from much-needed social programs at home, and that it was an unjust war anyway, targeting the poor people of Vietnam. He said, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Throughout the next year, he continued to speak out against the war, and said that the civil rights movement and the peace movement should come together for greater strength. He began a "Poor People's Campaign" to fight economic inequality. On April 4th, 1968, exactly one year after his first anti-war speech, King was assassinated while he was standing on the balcony of his Memphis motel room. He was preparing to lead a protest march in solidarity with garbage workers who were on strike.

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




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