Apr. 2, 2005

The Dog Inside Mine

by Alberto Rios

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Poem: "The Dog Inside Mine," by Alberto Rios, from The Smallest Muscle in The Human Body © Copper Canyon Press.

The Dog Inside Mine

The dog barks
Or is barked
By something inside,
Some mechanism in him
Taking hold
Against his best efforts
At sleep
Or civility.
The dog barks
Or is barked
By the dogs inside
The dark of him,
The black in his eyes,
The depths of his mouth,
Something from in there,
The growl of all
His mothers,
Like a hand,
Rousing his throat
Into noise.
This noise takes notice.
Or something has taken notice
And this noise
Is its charm:
It is not this dog's ears that hear.
It is the centuries,
And they answer back.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the poet Edward Dorn, born in Villa Grove, Illinois (1929). He studied with Charles Olson at the Black Mountain School, and taught and wrote all over the U.S. and England. He wrote about the American West, and about working people. His longest work was a poem called "Gunslinger"; the poem's hero had a talking horse called "Claude Levi-Strauss." One of his last published essays was an account of the Clinton impeachment proceedings, as seen through the eyes of a man undergoing chemotherapy.

It's the birthday of J. C. Squires, born in Plymouth England (1884). He edited The New Statesman during World War I, and then started the journal The London Mercury, which ran from 1919 to 1939, and published all the best writers of the day.

It's the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, born in Odense, Denmark (1805). Although he was most famous for his fairy tales, he never thought of himself as a children's writer. He wrote novels, plays, poetry, and travel essays, many of which were at least as successful as the fairy tales. Although Europeans and Americans loved his work, he was scorned in his own country during his lifetime; Søren Kierkegaard once published a scathing essay about him. He never married, and when he became ill late in life, he went to live with a family on the coast near Copenhagen. He had breakfast in his room one morning, and was found in bed a little while later, dead, holding a love letter someone had written to him 45 years earlier.

It's the birthday of the historian Catherine Macaulay, born in Wye, England (1731). She spent 20 years writing an eight-volume History of England, which said disparaging things about the monarchy, and drew criticism from conservatives.

It's the birthday of the Italian writer Giovanni Giacomo Casanova de Seingalt, born in Venice (1725). He spent the final years of his life as a librarian in a cold and drafty castle in Bohemia, and he set out to write his memoirs because, he said, it was "the sole remedy I believed I possessed to avoid going mad or dying of sorrow." He left 4,000 pages of manuscript behind, some of which was later published under the title The Story of My Life.

It's the birthday of Charlemagne, born on this day in Ingelheim, Germany (742). He never learned to read or write, and he used a template to sign documents. Although he couldn't read, he admired scholars who could, and he brought as many as he could to his court. Up until that time, most schooling had been limited to the study of sacred texts. Charlemagne started schools that taught all kinds of worldly knowledge, and said that they should "make no difference between the sons of serfs and of freemen, so that they might come and sit on the same benches to study grammar, music and arithmetic." He tried to get all his subjects to speak the same form of early German, so they'd stop praying in mutually incomprehensible dialects.

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