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Forty days and forty nights —
it’s important to stipulate the nights
involved; those forty years the tribe
wandered, forty days the desert fast.

Forty years ago now, I remember John Lennon was killed. He was forty years old. And that didn’t seem young at the time, not to me. I wasn’t yet twenty, let alone twice twenty and forty-year-old rock stars weren’t much use once they got to that age, songs about their past. Still we gathered on the quadrangle that night; candles stabbed through paper plates and lit — pragmatic votives. Some wanted to sing ‘Imagine’ — others…


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‘Set the temperature half again higher and the bird should be done in half the time.’ That had been my grandmother’s calculation sometime that morning of the day — Thanksgiving Day, 1966. Uncle John, who’d been an air raid warden during the war, now charged with keeping order at the children’s table, it was his report that came down. My cousins, my brothers, and I, all seated about the two folding card tables, all of us nodded approval; the reasoning impeccable. Uncle Larry had bought an electric carving knife for the occasion, perhaps as a maneuver in the subtle machinery…


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I’d have thought my brother would be disappointed
getting a baseball glove for Christmas,

about as useful in the middle of a New England winter
as a snorkel and pair of swim fins.

But that glove was exactly what he’d wished for;

the autograph of his favorite player branded onto the leather thumb. That winter-into-spring the glove and he would become one in a kind of ritual process, a baptismal rite and more. He soaked the thing in brine, then bound it with twine; a softball clasped within. It seemed every other day he was oiling its surfaces or working…


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Words are about as useless as memories after all —ah, but remember you were small enough I could pick you up off the floor. I’d start out humming ‘The Rakes of Mallow’ —that was the signal. You knew it was time and folded yourself into shape for the carrying. I’d take you up, up the yellow wooden stair to your bed— beery breath and beard stubble my final word on the day to set your sleep. ‘Goodnight, sweet prince, may flights of angels guide thee to thy rest.” I said that each time, as much to myself as you, something…


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“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not democracy.”

I think the first time I heard that quote I was sitting in my living room with my father listening to music. My dad had a record of Aaron Copeland’s ‘Lincoln Portrait’ —If I recall correctly it was the RCA Radio Orchestra conducted by the composer himself. What I am sure of is that the narrator for the spoken word portion of the piece was the actor…

Tom Driscoll

Tom Driscoll, poet, essayist and opinion columnist lives/works in Framingham, Massachusetts. https://tomdriscollwriting.com/

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