Today is Wednesday, April 25, 2018. It’s the birthday of writer Emma Straub. And “Robinson Crusoe” first published on this date in 1719. Our poem for today is “Fallen Angel” by Danielle Van Alst. It’s from her collection, “A Thousand Little Words: Poems of Life, Loss, Love, and Beauty.” Van Alst reads her poem in the podcast version of today’s episode.
After graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Emma Straub (affiliate link) worked at a bookstore in her native New York City. She left after four years while writing her novel, “The Vacationers.”
Straub said the experience allowed her to be around other writers and book lovers.
“I think there’s no better job for a writer than to work in a bookstore because you’re surrounded by people who care about what you care about,” Straub said.
Straub is back to being a bookseller, this time as the owner of a bookstore in Brooklyn. She and her husband, Michael Fusco-Straub, opened Books are Magic in 2017.
And Straub is the author of the aforementioned “The Vacationers,” which became a New York Times bestseller after it was released in 2014. She’s also the author of the books “Modern Lovers” and “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.” She’s published her writing in publications such as Vogue, Good Housekeeping, and Tin House.
Straub was born on this date in 1980 in New York City.
Robinson Crusoe is Published
It’s on this date in 1719 that “The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe” was published. The novel was Daniel Defoe’s first.
Defoe made a living as a merchant before losing all of his money. He then wrote political pamphlets for income before, at age 59, turning to fiction.
“Robinson Crusoe” is the story of a shipwrecked sailor. The book was a hit in Britain, going through multiple new editions within months after its first printing. And the novel was quickly translated into various languages for reading throughout Europe.
Many stories have been inspired by “Robinson Crusoe” over the past 300 years, including the novel “The Swiss Family Robinson” and the film, “Cast Away.”
Hers is a story longing to be told
a tale of dark secrets waiting to unfold,
an enigma kept hidden and locked in stone
never to be discovered, revealed, or known.
Yet, her doomed legend may not rest nor sleep
haunted by the unspoken words she must keep
words filled with passion, desire, and hate
of ill-fated knowledge that came too late.
Now, she forever dwells among the graves
emptied of all souls that heaven saves.
She remains not as phantom, spirit, or ghost,
but as a marble guard holding her post
an angel carved from earthen rock of sandstone and lime
to lie eternally frozen in time.
It was there that stood the young handsome man in black
that could recount her ancient tale and take me back.
This saga began many moons ago
in a place where departed spirits go,
tis a mystic land beyond the star filled skies
a site of pure enchantment where magic lies.
It is there in the celestial garden of grace
where lovely creatures dwell, fair of heart and of face.
In that golden ethereal valley
rests beauty that mere mortals cannot see,
it flows with clear refreshing healing streams
that sparkle and glisten as the sunlight beams
upon great majestic pools of sapphire
that ripple with the dreams of hope and desire.
Upon this lush abundant vibrant ground
trod royal angels that the Gods have crowned,
among the fresh blossoms and wooded trees
they roam with a tranquil radiant ease
for, theirs is a power of privilege and strength
of youth, vigor, and life of endless length.
They are masters of destiny and fate
guardians of souls who pass through their gate,
their force fills the kingdom with joyful light
an energy pulsing brilliant and bright.
Yet, there was one who wanted something more
to act upon a deed not done before.
With an untamed heart and a rebellious mind
it was true earthly love this angel sought to find-
a living man of breath, flesh, blood, and bone
alive with passion she could call her own.
Her cherished name was Mirain meaning lovely,
with clear tender eyes the color of the sea
a winged goddess with silky copper hair
and alabaster skin so soft and fair.
Under the quiet cloak and dark of night
this wild beauty slipped carefully from sight
away to the strange place that spirits fled
to the forbidden land where mortals tread
breaking through the veil of this taboo sphere
to a world so curious, odd, and queer.
Cautiously stepping upon the damp ground
where human souls are kept anxiously bound
she gazes upon this knew unknown realm
whose sights do fascinate and overwhelm.
All was bathed in faint silvery moonlight
as the stars above sparkled intense and bright
casting mysterious eerie shadows
that swirled about like mournful ghostly crows
twirling among the dense forest of trees
and dancing upon the cold gentle breeze
while overhead upon a barren limb
perched an owl watching so silent and grim.
She walked entranced through the bewitching wood
past vast groves where majestic poplars stood
strolling past regal stags and a graceful doe
along leafy paths lit by the moons glow
until she came upon a tiny brook,
falling upon her knees, she bent to look.
She stared into its serene glassy mirror
when suddenly an image did appear,
not merely her reflection, but something more
a figure she had never seen before.
He had a stunning face and dark raven hair
perfectly dressed in black looking strikingly debonair,
he stood with skin so pale and snowy white
gazing with calm grey eyes that pierced the night.
An elegant figure so tall and thin,
he smiled at her with a charming grin.
When he spoke, his deep voice was smooth like suede
beseeching her “please do not be afraid.”
She stared completely spellbound and in awe
transfixed and delighted by what she saw,
he lovingly guided her upon her feet
then stroked her rosy cheek so tenderly and sweet.
His warm gentle touch made her spirit stir
as her racing thoughts began to blur,
for this captivating man did hold her heart
and from that moment they would not part.
Night after night they met as souls entwined
promising deathless love as ties that bind
yet, he told her “I can no longer lie”
“I shan’t live forever and I will one day die.”
“No!” she screamed. “No, you must never depart
for that would surely break my fragile heart.”
“My dear one, I must make you understand”
as he drew her close clutching her small hand.
He took her to the kirkyard on the knoll
behind the tower where the bells do toll.
“My love, I brought you here so you may see
the cruel fate that does wait for me.”
“How can I save you?” she implored of him
her face looking grieved, somber, and grim.
He whispered in a voice of calm control
“you and you alone can save my soul.”
“Share with me your power to give me life
that cannot be cut by the harsh reapers knife.
give to me stout strength and eternal youth
vitality, wisdom, and sacred truth.
Darling, you can infuse in me all of this
with the enthralling magic of your kiss.”
With a pure and trusting heart she took his hand
“yes, my love, I will do as you command.”
He gently clasped his hands around her hips
and placed a tender kiss upon her lips.
As she stood atop the firm hallowed ground
the earth rumbled with a violent sound,
he looked at her with wicked savage eyes
a foul evil he could no longer disguise,
gripping her with a vile loathsome hate
and a wild raging fury much too great.
She now understood his cruel betrayal
as her drained body grew numb, weak, and frail.
All had turned into a raving tempest
as shrieks swirled through the air and heavy mist,
the world grew dark with his brutal deed complete
shattered and disgraced she collapsed at his feet.
Her form lay crumpled on the earth
now emptied of all virtue, value, and worth.
He picked up the cold, limp, and lifeless frame
of the lost being whose soul he did claim.
A fair fallen angel broken and deceived
by the web of lies he cleverly weaved.
He carried her through the mossy hollow
past decaying crypts forgotten long ago
to a spot beneath an old barren oak
where the thick eerie fog hung heavy like smoke.
There he laid her body upon the slate
and with the wave of his hand sealed her fate
entombing her within the smooth marble stone
leaving her locked forever to dwell alone.
Then all fell silent on the dale
and that, the man said, is the end of her tale.
I stared transfixed at the tragic statue
her silhouette aged and covered with dew
still lost in thought I turned to ask how he knew,
but this strange man had disappeared from view
like a phantom he had vanished and gone
with the swiftness of a curtain being drawn.
I stood alone beside her solemn grave
looking at the beauty no one could save,
she gazed at me with anguished frozen eyes
left empty and vacant upon her demise.
Slowly, the evening mist had turned to rain
‘twas then I noticed upon her face a stain,
a long thin line cascading down her cheek
leaving in its wake a dark and lonely streak.
No, it was not the falling rain that drips down full of drear,
but the shedding of a cold solitary tear.
– “Fallen Angel” from A Thousand Little Words: Poems of Life, Loss, Love, and Beauty. Copyright 2018 by Danielle Van Alst. Used with permission of the author.