Friday Oct. 28, 2016

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Message for the Disheartened

When you are expecting nothing
a letter arrives
and someone decides for you.
Your arms fall to your sides,
your hands open.

You dress for the weather
in your gold moccasins
and prepare for long journeys
to distant countries.

The foxes who come out of the forests
stall before you but do not startle.
They are so beautiful,
full of spice and sugar.

Vines grow wildly around you
tangling your thoughts.
There are so many countries
you’ve never traveled to.

You’ve been keeping
to your own rooms
like a blanket stored
inside a closet

or an Egyptian mummy
or a room full of model ships.
In case you miss me,
keep moving through time

and I will arrive finally
in a black coat and top hat,
leaving my cane in the closet,
to open your inner pages

saying, after all, life
is sweet and not as dangerous
as you might think—though the thief
runs off with the child before help comes.

“Message for the Disheartened” by Patricia Fargnoli from Winter. © Hobblebush Books, 2013. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

It's the birthday of convicted murderer and best-selling detective novelist Anne Perry (books by this author), born Juliet Hulme in London (1938). She had tuberculosis, and her doctor said she wouldn't survive another winter in England, so she was sent away to live in the Bahamas, and then South Africa. She rejoined her family when she was 13, after her father — a well-known physicist — got a job as a president of a university in Christchurch, New Zealand. She became close friends with a classmate, Pauline Parker, who also struggled with health issues. When Juliet was confined to a sanatorium for several months, she exchanged daily letters with Pauline. They created an elaborate fantasy world together; they were both working on novels, which they were convinced were brilliant. They planned to run away to New York together, find publishers for their novels, and then make them into Hollywood movies — they would be actresses and they would handpick famous actors to star in their films.

Then Juliet's parents decided to leave the country and take their daughter to South Africa. The two girls were absolutely devastated and begged for Pauline to move to South Africa too. Juliet's parents thought the girls needed to be separated, but they said all right, as long as it was OK with the Parkers — knowing full well they would never consent. Sure enough, Pauline Parker's mother refused. The teenage girls decided that Pauline's mother was the only thing ruining their lives, and that the only way to solve everything would be to kill her. So they did, inviting her to go on a walk in the park and then bashing her head with a brick tied in a stocking. When the girls returned to the teahouse where they had eaten lunch, they were covered in blood, and quickly arrested. Juliet was 15 years old, and Pauline 16.

The brutal murder shocked the country, and the two girls were given a high-profile trial. The prosecution read extracts of Pauline's diary, in which the girls coldly planned the murder. They were each sentenced to an indefinite prison sentence, and were released separately about five years later under the condition they never contact each other.

The girl who had been Juliet Hulme changed her name to Anne Perry. She converted to Mormonism, and settled in a remote Scottish village with her mother. In 1978, she published a murder mystery called The Cater Street Hangman, set in Victorian England. She expanded the book into a series, and then wrote another detective series. For decades, no one knew that Anne Perry and Juliet Hulme were one in the same. Then, in 1994, the Parker-Hulme murder case became the inspiration for the film Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet as Juliet. A reporter was writing a story about the film and discovered that not only was Juliet Hulme still alive, she was a best-selling, world-famous writer named Anne Perry. She writes for 12 hours a day, and she has written more than 50 novels, which have sold more than 25 million copies.

Perry said of her writing: "It is vital for me to go on exploring moral matters."

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