Dec. 29, 2007

Choosing A Dog

by William Stafford

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Poem: "Choosing A Dog" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is. © Graywolf Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Choosing A Dog

"It's love," they say. You touch
the right one and a whole half of the universe
wakes up, a new half.

Some people never find
that half, or they neglect it or trade it
for money or success and it dies.

The faces of big dogs tell, over the years,
that size is a burden: you enjoy it for awhile
but then maintenance gets to you.

When I get old I think I'll keep, not a little
dog, but a serious dog,
for the casual, drop-in criminal —

My kind of dog, unimpressed by
dress or manner, just knowing
what's really there by the smell.

Your good dogs, some things that they hear
they don't really want you to know —
it's too grim or ethereal.

And sometimes when they look in the fire
they see time going on and someone alone,
but they don't say anything.

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place in the army camp in South Dakota, 1890. The band of Indians had been fleeing through the cold when they were ordered into Wounded Knee. The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian warrior. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing 290 men, women, and children. The gunfire was so haphazard that the soldiers killed more than 25 of their own men in the crossfire. Even though it wasn't really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the final battle of the Indian Wars, which had lasted 350 years.

Today in 1916, James Joyce (books by this author) published his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, after it had been serialized by Ezra Pound in The Egoist between 1914 and 1915. The novel portrays the early years of Joyce's alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, in five sections, each in a third-person voice — from early childhood memories, written in simple, childlike language, to Stephen's final decision to leave Dublin for Paris, in Latin-sprinkled stream-of-consciousness prose.

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Robert Ruark, (books by this author) born in Wilmington, North Carolina (1915), who managed to write 4,000 articles about his travels. He said, "There was a time when I would go anywhere, eat airline food, use gin as a substitute for sleep, fight against the Mau Mau, chase elephants on horseback, slug athletes, enjoy being jailed, and wrestle with leopards, all for the love of the newspaper business."

It was on this day in 1849 that Edmund Sears' Christmas carol "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" was published in the Christian Register. Sears said that he hoped the song would promote "peace on earth, good will toward men."

It's the birthday of businessman Joyce C. Hall, born in David City, Nebraska (1891), who traveled to Kansas City with shoeboxes full of picture postcards and began selling them to dealers around the Midwest. He started manufacturing his own cards and founded the Hallmark Card Company, which is now the largest greeting-card company in the world.

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




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