In Honor of the Day 2: “12/19/02” by David Lehman

This is from Tin House Vol. 5 Number 1:


by David Lehman

It seemed nothing would ever be the same
This feeling lasted for months
Not a day passed without a dozen mentions
of the devastation and the grief
Then life came back
it returned like sap to the tree
shooting new life into the veins
of parched leaves turning them green
and the old irritations came back,
there were life, too,
crowds pushing, taxis honking, the envies, the anger,
the woman who could not escape her misery
as she stood between two mirrored walls
couldn’t sleep, took a pill, heard the noises of neighbors
the dogs barking, the pigeons in the alley yipping weirdly
and the phone that rang at eight twenty with the news
of Lucy’s overdose we just saw her last Friday evening
at Jay’s on Jane Street she’d been dead for a day or so
when they found her and there was no note
the autopsy’s today the wake the day after tomorrow
and then I knew that life had resumed, ordinary bitching life
had come back

In Honor of the Day: War Literature or Matters Related Thereto

Below, books self has recently read that touch on some aspect of war.  The list contains a mix of fiction, memoir, and nonfiction:

102 Minutes:  The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

Agent Zigzag, by Ben Macintyre

A Life in Secrets:  Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of World War II, by Sarah Helm

A Long, Long Way, by Sebastian Barry

Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Dunkirk:  Fight to the Last Man, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore

Eichmann in Jerusalem, by Hannah Arendt

Falling Through the Earth, by Danielle Trussoni

Homecoming, by Bernhard Schlink

Human Smoke, by Nicholson Baker

Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Legacy of Ashes:  The History of the CIA, by Tim Weiner

Loot:  The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World, by Sharon Waxman

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson

Sepharad, by Antonio Muñoz Molina

The 9/11 Commission Final Report

The Annals of Imperial Rome, by Tacitus

The Assault, by Harry Mulisch

The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad

The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans

The Emperor’s Children, by Claire Messud

The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell

The Quiet American, by Graham Greene

The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink

Virgil’s The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fagles

More From “How My Cousin Manuel Brought Home a Wife,” by Charlson Ong (in THE BEST PHILIPPINE SHORT STORIES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, edited by Isagani Cruz)

In this section of the short story, Cousin Manuel describes for the narrator what he found in the Amazon:

“You wouldn’t know how it’s like until you get there, Carlos,” he said.  “I grew my hair long to gain power, put on weight, and found my center.  Everything I am now I owe to Consuelo,” he beamed and I could swear that for an instant, cousin Manuel’s face emanated an unearthly glow even as the midday sun shone through our tinted car windows.

“I am his black star,” Consuelo declared and I caught the twinkle in Manuel’s eyes.  I remembered at once how my cousin used to drag around his telescope through which he’d peer at the sky at odd hours of the night.  He was an astronomy buff back then and could name every one of the constellations which he pointed out to me save for an object he dubbed the “black star.”  I remembered Manuel telling me that he’d made an astounding discovery and that he was willing to name the “undetected quasar” after me for my entire personal savings worth 250 pesos.  Yet try as I did, I simply couldn’t sight this black thing Manuel had seemed genuinely ecstatic about.  Years later, while reading about Imelda Marcos’ celestial musings, I wondered whether cousin Manuel wasn’t imagining seeing some black hole in the horizons way back when.  The International Astronomical Society never acknowledged Manuel’s letter informing them of his discovery and he’d soon traded off his telescope for a super-8 movie camera.

This story is simply one of the funniest self has ever read.  A little further on, the narrator observes:

I realized soon that cousin Manuel wasn’t as trim as his designer suit made him appear initially.  He was a bit on the plump side and ate like a recently released hostage.  Either the months in the Amazons had really pumped up his appetite or the guy was trying to gobble up enough local cuisine for another twenty years of exile.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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