Sunday Sep. 13, 2015

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Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market

The metal halo was bolted into his skull,
little drills secured the scaffold,
so his bones could rebuild themselves.
How truly graced he must have been
to survive a broken neck. Someday
he’ll remember how he had to turn
his whole body, caged, to watch
the fruit vendor polish apples. His hair
will cover the evenly spaced scars.
He’ll go to school for architecture,
having learned to appreciate girders.
He’ll come to love the gold leaf halos
of medieval art, the flash of The Savior
in cracked oils. He may carry himself
a little gingerly, he may never ride a horse
again, but he’ll kiss his wife’s neck
in a dark theater, taking leisure, blessing
each vertebra, one lucky break at a time.

“Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market” by Sonia Greenfield from Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market. © Codhill Press, 2015. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

It was on this day in 1814 that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," by witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. It had been a dark summer for the young United States. Just three weeks previous, on August 24, British troops had set fire to much of Washington, D.C., including the Capitol, the Treasury, and the president's house. President James Madison had been forced to flee for his safety. Americans were terrified that the British might choose to invade New York or Philadelphia or Boston and destroy those cities as well.

The British had recently begun using rockets, a new military weapon adapted from Chinese technology. Francis Scott Key was horrified as he watched these rockets raining down on Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor. He watched the bombardment all night, and he had little hope that the American fort would withstand the attack. But just after sunrise on September 14th, he saw the American flag still flying over the fort. In fact, Francis Scott Key might never have even seen the flag if the fort commander, Major Armistead, hadn't insisted on flying one of the largest flags then in existence. The flag flying that day was 42 feet long and 30 feet high.

Francis Scott Key began writing a poem about the experience that very morning. It turned out that the battle at Baltimore was the turning point of the war. Before the war, the American flag had little sentimental significance for most Americans. It was used mainly as a way to designate military garrisons or forts. But after the publication of "The Star-Spangled Banner," even non-military people began to treat the flag as a sacred object.

It's the birthday of the "Father of Bluegrass," Bill Monroe, born in Rosine, Kentucky (1911), a brilliant mandolinist and a hard-driving tenor singer. His mother was an excellent fiddler, but his main inspiration was his Uncle Pen Vandiver, whom Monroe later honored with the song "Uncle Pen." In 1938, Bill formed the Blue Grass Boys, a group that would include future stars of country music such as Don Reno, Jimmy Martin, Carter Stanley, Vassar Clements, Chubby Wise, and Byron Berline — and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

Monroe's song "Sittin' Alone in the Moonlight":
Sittin' alone in the moonlight,
Thinkin' of the days gone by,
Wonderin' about my darlin'.
I can still hear her sayin' good-bye.

Oh, the moon glows pale as I sit here.
Each little star seems to whisper and say,
"Your sweetheart has found another,
And now she is far, far away.

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