Feb. 9, 2002


by Greg Kuzma

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"Police," by Greg Kuzma from Everday Life (Spoon River Poetry Press).


The police arrived early; I woke and heard
their motor running.
I was up before he was out of the car.
I was dressed before he was fully up the sidewalk
to the house.
I had descended the stairs just as his fist
hit the door.
I opened the door full upon him
shaking the last disheveled hair down.
I tried to appear indifferent, as if I had
been up for hours,
as if I had been myself on the job all night,
as if I knew already what it was he would say,
and that I perfectly understood
and forgave him entirely.
"We have one of your dogs in the trap this morning,"
he said, "And I must issue you another citation."
"Yes, I'm sorry about that," I said,
"She slipped away last night.
I was going to call you but I thought she would come
I was lying, really, I had not known
any of the dogs had left,
but this had happened so often I expected it.
It was part of living in Crete, Nebraska.
I think the police liked picking the dogs up.
It gave them a chance to ride in the car with a dog.
Otherwise they are not allowed.
Riding with a dog can be quite a pleasure.
I have often done it myself.

It's the birthday of poet and translator Robert (Alexander) Hedin, born in Red Wing, Minnesota (1949). He's the author of over a dozen books of his own poetry and translations of the Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen. His first book of poetry was Snow Country (1975), and most recently he collaborated with poet Robert Bly on the translation of The Roads Have Come to Their End Now: Selected and Last Poems of Rolf Jacobsen (2000).

It's the birthday of American novelist and poet Alice Walker, born in Eatonton, Georgia (1944). She was the last of eight children born to a family of sharecroppers in rural Georgia. When she was a girl, her brother accidentally shot her in the eye with a BB gun. Blinded in one eye and disfigured by the accident, she sought refuge in books. With a scholarship from the state of Georgia, she went off to Spelman College, in Atlanta, where she became an activist. After three years at Spelman, she transferred to Sarah Lawrence College, where after her graduation, she worked on voter registration campaigns in Georgia, and completed her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1969). During the 1970's, her novels and poetry began to receive national awards, and in 1983 she received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her novel, The Color Purple (1982).

It's the birthday of South African novelist J.M. (John Michael) Coetzee, born in Cape Town, South Africa (1940). He's the author of several prize-winning novels set against a background of political and racial confrontation in South Africa. The novels include Dusklands (1974), From the Heart of the Country (1977), Waiting for the Barbarians (1982), and the Booker Prize-winning Disgrace (1999). He said: "I don't like writing, so I have to push myself. It's bad if I write but it's worse if I don't."

It's the birthday of country music pioneer Ernest (Dale) Tubb, the "Texas Troubadour," born near Crisp, Texas (1914). He started out playing in the roadside watering holes, known as "honky tonks," that sprang up in Texas during the oil boom of the 1930s. At first, he imitated his idol Jimmie Rodgers, but then a tonsillectomy changed his voice and made it impossible for him to yodel in the Jimmie Rodgers style. He ended up forging his own style of music that became known as "honky tonk" music, after the bars where he first performed. His breakthrough came in 1941, with the song "Walking the Floor Over You." The success of that song got him invited to Nashville, where he became a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry. In 1947, he began hosting his own radio show, "Midnight Jamboree," that came on after the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts on Saturday night. Ernest Tubb died in 1984, but "Midnight Jamboree" is still on the air as the second longest running radio program in America.

It's the birthday of Austrian composer Alban Berg, born in Vienna (1885). He studied with the composer Arnold Schoenberg, and matured into one of the major composers of atonal music in the twentieth century. His most famous works are the operas Wozzeck (1925) and Lulu (1935), and the infamous Violin Concerto.

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