Thankfully our friend Mr. Burrell’s got our back:
The wise men; Joseph; the tiny infant; Mary;
The cows; the drovers, each with his dromedary;
The hulking shepherds in their sheepskins — they
Have all become toy figures made of clay.
In the cotton-batting snow that’s strewn with glints,
A fire is blazing. You’d like to touch that tinsel
Star with a finger — or all five of them,
As the infant wished to do in Bethlehem.
All this, in Bethlehem, was of greater size.
Yet the clay, round which the drifted cotton lies,
With tinsel overhead, feels good to be
Enacting what we can no longer see.
Now you are huge compared to them, and high
Beyond their ken. Like a midnight passerby
Who finds the pane of some small hut aglow,
You peer from the cosmos at this little show.
There life goes on, although the centuries
Require that some diminish by degrees,
While others grow, like you. The small folk there
Contend with granular snow and icy air,
And the smallest reaches for the breast, and you
Half-wish to clench your eyes, or step into
A different galaxy, in whose wastes there shine
More lights than there are sands in Palestine.
Wilbur, Richard. Anterooms: New Poems and Translations: 35-36. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
Brian Jobe, author of Bird’s Nest in Your Hair, was born on this date in 1964. Jobe studied Classics at the University of Washington and at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His writing was published at National Review Online, Korrektiv, Letter X Magazine, and Dappled Things. He lived in Seattle most of his life, with brief sojourns in Japan, Boston, and/or Hell. Bird’s Nest in Your Hair was the first of seventeen novels he published before his life came to a dramatic end when he drove a fortunately empty articulated Metro bus off the Ship Canal Bridge. Jobe was ninety-nine years old at the time of his death and it is believed that the accident was precipitated by the receipt of a text message from Steven Spielberg offering to purchase the rights to adapt Bird’s Nest to the big screen. (Yes, they still had text messages and movies back in 2064 and Spielberg was still going strong due to the supplement situation he had set up for himself.)
Bird’s Nest in Your Hair by Brian Jobe: a novel about bartending, old-time religion, and the twilight years of commercial pornography. Plus, poetry!
Finally! The third book from Korrektiv Press is now available. I hit the “publish” button a few days ago, and was told the page would be up later this week. My brother called to tell me he’d manage to find it at Amazon today. You can all also get it at CreateSpace (the printing division of Korrektiv Press).
Here’s the description: Diana tends bar at Queequeg’s Tavern, where she meets Pete, a recent retiree always ready with a joke, and Jeb, a homeless student driven by a poet’s Romantic aspirations. Tangled up in a history of the family blues, she sometimes takes refuge in a church she can’t decide to join for good. Tom, the manager of a video store near the tavern, is settling into a new marriage with Helen, an adult film producer wealthy enough to save Tom’s store from impending doom. But when a figure from his past walks through the door, who will save his marriage? Who will help whom as this nest of birds unravels?
Bird’s Nest in Your Hair: a novel about bartending, old-time religion, and the twilight years of commercial pornography. Plus, poetry!
Before the Altar
Two dozen beers on tap and even more in bottles,
and not just beer, but wine and especially booze,
built up on shelves in something like a ziggurat
for a cult dedicated to the certainty of conviction
granted only to drunks in the blindness of an alcoholic
haze. Rituals have their priests; I see you as a high
priestess of drinking, surrounded by the paraphernalia
of your order: corkscrew, strainer and cocktail shaker,
a dozen kinds of glassware handled with a dexterity
demanding devotion, a cloud rising from cigarettes
burned as incense by attendants at your altar.
How well you handle every office—confessions
whispered without sorrow or regret, the jukebox choir,
and a communion of breadsticks and Beaujolais.
For S.E.P. and ἡ θυγάτηρ
The knit that stitches life is death’s
Iconic myth of passing time –
The knelling chime, the easing breaths….
But God bequeaths a weft to rhyme
Each woof his loom can measure out.
Excising doubt, He takes the same
From holy dream to indicate
Each tittled jot. Anonymous
In ignorance, though, men would quote
A public vote for muted loss:
When others miss the moment blessed,
The self, indexed, cannot confess
Its ends are loose – and so, perplexed
And piqued, it plucks a threadbare text.
On Pushkin’s birthday, eighteen-eighty-
Nine (ninety years old the bard
Would be, but for romantic fate he
Gave up his life, a cast-off shard
Cast off too soon), Seattle kindled
From gluey scrap where sharpies swindled
The downtown down-and-outers out
Of weekly pay for Skid Road clout
With seamstress’ skirts and garters seeming
Undone for doing what we do
When left to our devices, through
The rise and fall, the devil’s steaming
Pile of what you will, a choir
Of angels singing round the fire.
From The Writer’s Almanac
Today is the birthday of mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher Blaise Pascal (books by this author), born in Clermont-Ferrand, France. He was a child prodigy, and by the time he was 19, he had already perfected the first mechanical calculator for sale to the public. In the field of physics, he discovered that air has weight and proved that vacuums are possible in nature. In mathematics, he founded the theory of probabilities and developed an early form of integral calculus. He also invented the syringe and the hydraulic press.
He was often torn between a spiritual life and a scientific one. When he was 23, he began to feel the need to withdraw from the world and devote his life to God. He did just that, for a while, but soon threw himself back into his scientific pursuits, working so hard he made himself ill. He returned to religion for good after a mystical conversion experience, which he called the “night of fire,” in 1654, and entered the Abbey of Port-Royal in January 1655. He lived as an informal hermit, and he never again published under his own name. He only wrote things that the monks requested, and he produced two great works of religious philosophy: Provincial Letters (1657) and Thoughts (1658).
He wrote, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”
From The Writer’s Almanac:
It’s the birthday of the father of modern Russian literature: Aleksandr Pushkin (books by this author), born in Moscow (1799). He died at the age of 38, but in his brief life, he worked in nearly every literary form. His masterpiece was the verse novel Eugene Onegin (1833), about a man who kills his friend in a duel, and loses the one woman he loves.
Pushkin married Natalya Goncharova who was described at the time as the most beautiful woman in Russia. She had many admirers, including Czar Nicholas. One of her suitors was so persistent that Pushkin finally challenged him to a pistol duel in 1837. Pushkin died two days later.
The government initially tried to cover up the death, because Pushkin was so popular among common Russians that they thought his death might spark an uprising. When word of his death finally did get out, people all over the country went into mourning. One man, weeping openly in the street, was asked by a newspaper man if he had known Pushkin personally. He replied, “No, but I am a Russian.”
The Great Seattle Fire destroyed downtown Seattle on this date in 1889. The fire started in the basement of a cabinet shop on the corner of Front and Madison. An employee had set a pot of glue on top of a lit stove, and the glue caught fire. Over the next 18 hours, the blaze wiped out the town’s business district and waterfront. Miraculously, there were no human fatalities.
In a year’s time, Seattle had nearly been rebuilt. All the construction jobs sparked a population boom, and Seattle grew from a town of 25,000 into a full-fledged city of more than 40,000.