May 25, 2005

The Man Next Door Is Teaching His Dog to Drive

by Cathryn Essinger

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Poem: "The Man Next Door Is Teaching His Dog to Drive" by Cathryn Essinger from My Dog Does Not Read Plato. © Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission.

The Man Next Door Is Teaching His Dog to Drive

It all began when he came out one morning
and found the dog waiting for him behind the wheel.
He thought she looked pretty good sitting there,

so he started taking her into town with him
just so she could get a feel for the road.
They have made a few turns through the field,

him sitting beside her, his foot on the accelerator,
her muzzle on the wheel. Now they are practicing
going up and down the lane with him whispering

encouragement in her silky ear. She is a handsome
dog with long ears and a speckled muzzle and he
is a good teacher. Now my wife, Millie, he says,

she was always too timid on the road, but don't you
be afraid to let people know that you are there.

The dog seems to be thinking about this seriously.

Braking, however, is still a problem, but he is building
a mouthpiece which he hopes to attach to the steering
column, and when he upgrades to one of those new

Sports Utility Vehicles with the remote ignition device,
he will have solved the key and the lock problem.
Although he has not yet let her drive into town,

he thinks she will be ready sometime next month,
and when his eyes get bad and her hip dysplasia
gets worse, he thinks this will come in real handy.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day, in 1787, at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Constitutional Convention got underway. Many people agreed that the Articles of Confederation under which the colonies organized after the revolution was not working. The colonies had remained relatively independent of each other, almost like separate countries, and the result was a sort of anarchy.

So the Congress agreed that a stronger central government was necessary to keep the country from falling apart. Thomas Jefferson was not there. He was in Paris. John Adams was in England. Patrick Henry refused to come. He was suspicious that a stronger form of central government would lead to tyranny.

The convention decided to scrap the Articles of Confederation and start over, and so they decided to work in secret. The windows were nailed shut, guards were posted, not a word was leaked to the press. 55 delegates were there of 74 who had been invited to come. Most of them were young; only four of them over 60, five of them still in their 20s. Rhode Island didn't send anybody. They didn't approve of the whole thing.

George Washington would have preferred to stay home, but he presided over the convention. Other delegates had persuaded him that his prestige was necessary to guarantee success. He rarely spoke during the debates, but his presence alone affected what people said. Many of the delegates later said that they had been reluctant to give the office of the president much power for fear of creating a king, but when they saw Washington up front and imagined that he would soon hold that position, they felt better about granting the head of state more power.

It took some persuading to get the constitution adopted, but today ours is the oldest written national Constitution in the world. It's also one of the shortest, at only 7,591 words.

It's the birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson, born in Boston on this day in 1803.

It's the birthday of short story writer Raymond Carver, born in Clatskanie, Oregon (1938).

It's the birthday of the poet Theodore Roethke, born in Saginaw, Michigan (1908).

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




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