Friday Feb. 12, 2016

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AM Radio

So many nights we sat up listening to basketball games,
talking about cars and all the cities he had driven through
in big trucks, all the dangerous cargo he had carried.
My uncle was a night-owl and a storyteller,
One-time drunk and chaser of questionable women,
lover of American muscle cars, handcrafted wood,
Shakespeare fishing rods, and black walnut ice cream.
Some nights when I am the last night-owl stirring,
the conversation in my head returns to basketball,
great Boston Celtics teams from the sixties
or the Tennessee Vols from the Ernie & Bernie Show,
all before my time, but part of the memory
of the memories he passed along to me.
When I worry that I’ve forgotten what his voice
sounded like, or gotten lonesome for the only person
I always knew I could call at any hour of the night,
nothing soothes my mind like scanning through
radio channels and finding a basketball game,
any slightly shrill announcer over-enthused
about a three-point shot, or a missed free throw,
some reminder that we may share only part of life
with those who love us most, that we make a sport
out of catching memories time tries to steal away.

“AM Radio” by Jesse Graves from Basin Ghosts. © Texas Review Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

Abraham Lincoln (books by this author) was born on this day near Hodgenville, Kentucky (1809). Though he's generally considered one of the greatest presidents in our country's history, fairly little is known about his early life. Unlike most presidents, he never wrote any memoirs. We know that he was born in a log cabin and had barely a year of traditional schooling. His mother died when he was nine, and he spent much of his adolescence working with an ax. But when he was in his early 20s, he showed up in New Salem, Illinois, having decided to remake himself as a professional man, and to study law.

Charles Darwin (books by this author) was born on this day in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England (1809). On the famous voyage to the southern tip of South America when he was only 22, Darwin brought with him a book called Principles of Geology by Sir Charles Lyell, which suggested that the earth was millions of years old. And along the journey, Darwin got a chance to explore the Galapagos Islands. These islands were spaced far enough apart that the animals on them had evolved over time into different species.

It took him a long time to publish his findings, mainly because he was afraid of being attacked as an atheist. But about 20 years after he first came up with the idea, he published his book On the Origin of Species (1859).

It's the birthday of Judy Blume (books by this author), born in Elizabeth, New Jersey (1938), the best-selling author of more than two dozen books for young people.

She was 27 years old, with two preschool aged children, when she began writing seriously. For two years, she received constant rejections. Then in 1970, she had her big breakthrough, with the young adult novel Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. It's the story of 11-year-old Margaret Simon, the daughter of Jewish father and Christian mother, and her adolescent attempts to make sense of things like religion, boys, and menstruation. The book was banned in many schools and libraries. It's one of the most challenged books of the last third of the 20th century. But it's also beloved by many, and it has been a big best-seller over the years.

She lives mostly in Key West, where she writes at a desk facing a garden. In the summer, she writes in a small cabin on Martha's Vineyard. She always writes in the morning. When she's working on a first draft, which she says is the hardest part, she writes seven days a week, even if only for an hour or two day.

Blume is also the author of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (1972), Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (1972), Blubber (1974), The Pain and the Great One (1974), Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (1977), Superfudge (1980), Here's to You, Rachel Robinson (1993), and recently, Going, Going, Gone! with the Pain and the Great One (2008). Her books have sold more than 80 million copies.

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