Saturday Apr. 4, 2015

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The Cows at Night

The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them — forty
near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad

because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.

“The Cows at Night” by Hayden Carruth from Collected Shorter Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 1991. Reprinted with permission of the author.  (buy now)

It was on this day in 1818 that Congress decided the U.S. flag would consist of 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, with a new star to be added for every new state.

It was on this day in 1968 that Martin Luther King Jr. (books by this author) was assassinated standing on the balcony of his room on the second floor of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis at 6:01 in the evening. He'd gone to Memphis to support a strike by 1,300 black sanitation workers, and the night before he'd given a speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis in which he said:

"We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop ... I just want to do God's will ... I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."

It's the birthday of blues great Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915), who taught himself to play harmonica and guitar, played on the south side of Chicago in bars, and in 1950, he made the first recording for Chess Records, a tune called "Rolling Stone."

It's the birthday of Marguerite Duras (books by this author), born in a small village in French Indochina near what is now Saigon, Vietnam (1914). Her parents had left France to teach in Indochina, her dad died, and Duras grew up in poverty.

When she was a teenager, she became lovers with a wealthy, older Chinese man, whom she met on a ferry between Sa Dec and Saigon. She would write about him for the rest of her life, in autobiographical works like The Lover (1984), which was an international best-seller.

Marguerite Duras said, "You have to be very fond of men. Very, very fond. You have to be very fond of them to love them. Otherwise they're simply unbearable."

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