Oct. 6, 2005

Wild Card

by Cathryn Essinger

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Poem: "Wild Card" by Cathryn Essinger, from My Dog Does Not Read Plato. © Main Street Rag Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission.

Wild Card

The local newspaper reports
a Houston housewife has found
a three foot long snake indigenous
to California in her electric toaster.

I need to talk to this woman. I want
to know what kind of bread attracts
snakes, if she goes to church on Sundays
and if she believes in chance.

While I have her on the phone, I want
to ask about other irregularities, such as
the Osage orange that showed up
on my front step, a fruit so large

no creature could have carried it.
And what does she make of the wild card
I found in a pile of leaves-a Jack of Spades
masquerading as some variety of oak?

Or the crow who paces the patio,
carrying a packet of taco sauce,
dipping his beak casually, as if
hot sauce were his natural food.

I'd ask about the mouse I found
this morning in the dog's bowl,
frantic, half drowned, the small cap
of his skull bobbing like a tiny buoy.

Still, he swam, betting against all odds
that some housewife might appear
on this Sunday morning, looking for eggs
or waffle mix, and the opportunity to tip

the bowl onto a sunny porch where
a small thing, who has never questioned
the implacable nature of the universe,
could have another chance.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the soprano Jenny Lind, born in Stockholm (1820). Hans Christian Andersen was in love with her. He wrote the story "The Nightingale" as a tribute to her. Chopin was in love with her too. She almost married him.

On this day in 1847, Charlotte Brontë published her novel Jane Eyre about an orphan girl who grows up to become a governess. It was a great success.

On this day in 1866, John and Simeon Reno pulled off the first train robbery in American history. Trains had been robbed before while they sat in the station or in freight yards, but the Reno brothers stopped in Ohio and Mississippi a railroad train on the move. They blocked the tracks in Jackson County, Indiana.

On this day in 1930, William Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying was published. It's the story of the Bundren family and the journey they take to bury their mother Addie in the family cemetery. They go through a storm and a flood and there's a flock of vultures following their wagon. Falkner wrote the book while he was working the night shift at a power plant. He said he wrote it in six weeks without changing a word. And he said that of all his books, he liked As I Lay Dying the best.

The Jazz Singer, the first talking motion picture was released on this day in 1927.

On this day in 1889, the Moulin Rouge opened its doors to the public in Paris. It was the nightclub that Henri Toulouse-Lautrec liked to paint and where the Can-Can was introduced.

It's the birthday of George Horace Lorimer, born in Louisville, Kentucky (1867). He was the editor of the Saturday Evening Post for almost 40 years.

It's the birthday of the novelist and critic Caroline Gordon, born in Merry Mont, Kentucky (1895). Her novels included Penhally, Aleck Maury, Sportsman, Old Red and Other Stories.

Caroline Gordon said, "A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way."

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




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