Today is my birthday. My son took this photo, and I thought it was appropriate to put it here, since these are my parents, and I consider them at least partially responsible for my birth. Okay, fully responsible. My mother, Katherine, and my dad, Bill, threw me a little party at their lovely home yesterday. They made chicken paprikas and German spaeztle, and an apple strudel with real whipped cream for dessert. Naturally, I ate large quantities.
Since my mom has saved every cake decoration since about 1960, she put a little tribute to birthdays past on the cake. It looked like this:There's the stork who brought me; and Alice in Wonderland-- to represent, I suppose, my confusion about life in general; and Bambi and a couple of ballerinas (one fell down, as I would if I attempted ballet); and then there are lots of beach umbrellas to protect Alice and the dancers from the bright flames. I found this cake very fun.
This also marks the birthday of Rudyard Kipling, long a favorite poet of mine because of his masterful use of rhyme and meter. As a teen I was greatly moved by his poem "If," which told me that if I did a lot of wise things, I'd be a man, my son.
But I suppose it says a lot about me that one of my current favorite Kipling poems is gruesome and bitterly ironic. It's called "The Hyaenas." And I'll share it with you now.
by Rudyard Kipling
After the burial parties leave
And the baffled kites have fled;
The wise hyaenas come out at eve
To take account of our dead.
How he died and why he died
Troubles them not a whit.
They snout the bushes and stones aside
And dig till they come to it.
They are only resolute they shall eat
That they and their mates may thrive,
And they know that the dead are safer meat
Than the weakest thing alive.
(For a goat may butt, and a worm may sting,
And a child will sometimes stand;
But a poor dead soldier of the King
Can never lift a hand.)
They whoop and halloo and scatter the dirt
Until their tushes white
Take good hold of the Army shirt,
And tug the corpse to light,
And the pitiful face is shewn again
For an instant ere they close;
But it is not discovered to living men--
Only to God and those
Who, being soulless, are free from shame,
Whatever meat they may find.
Nor do they defile the dead man's name--
That is reserved for his kind.
See what I mean? Yeah! You tell 'em, Rudyard! Indict humanity with your clever verses!
Anyway. I suppose it's odd that I chose to put a poem about corpses devoured by hyenas in my birthday blog, but there you have it.