Nov. 1, 2008

Walking the Dog on the Night before He Is to Be Fixed

by John Stone

As far as I can tell, old chum, neuter
is neither here nor there, but in-between,
a state that has a certain charm, like pewter,
prized for durability, if not for sheen.

Tomorrow night you'll stroll in wary fashion
after the sleep, the knife, the careful scars
that promise to put an end to wayward passion
not to mention long-imagined wars

for territorial rights, a lady's paw.
Tomorrow the thermostat is set on cold
in calculated stern hormonal law.
What I know of this is what I'm told:

All veterans must come before the vet
on calendars either canine or lunar.
All lose that first fine frenzy to beget
whether it be later, friend, or sooner.

I toast us both then, Franz, in our decrease,
Though there's no way for you to know that I'm
also tugging manfully at the leash,
waiting doggedly for the nick of time.

"Walking the Dog on the Night before He Is to Be Fixed" by John Stone from Where Water Begins. © Louisiana State University Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1993 that the European Union was established. The EU began with six member countries and now has 27 members.

It's the birthday of the Palestinian-American writer and literary critic Edward Said, (books by this author) born in 1935 in Jerusalem. He went to school at Princeton and Harvard, and spent the rest of his career teaching at Columbia. Said is most famous for his book Orientalism (1978), a book that rewrote the history of the West in terms of its clichéd perceptions of the East. Edward Said helped establish postcolonial theory, an academic field that looks at literature, art, music, and politics in the context of the legacy of colonialism.

It was on this day in 1509 that the public first saw Michelangelo's frescoes painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter, and he didn't want to paint the Sistine ceiling, but Pope Julius II insisted. The pope had imagined that the ceiling would display 12 large figures of the apostles, but Michelangelo had a different vision, and by the time he finished in 1512, there were more than 300 figures. He wasn't finished with the ceiling in 1509, but the pope insisted that it was time he had something to show the public.

Michelangelo complained constantly, because it was extremely uncomfortable to paint the ceiling — he was up on scaffolding and bent backward, in order to paint over his head. He threatened to leave Rome without finishing the ceiling, and Julius threatened right back that he would have the artist flung from the scaffold. Michelangelo even wrote a sonnet complaining about his work. It contains the lines: "A goiter it seems I got from this backward craning like the cats get there in Lombardy." And, "From all this straining my guts and my hambones tangle." And, "Feet are out of sight; they just scuffle around, erratic. Up front my hide's tight elastic; in the rear it's slack and droopy, except where crimps have callused. I'm bent like a bow."

Modern viewers didn't realize how colorful the ceiling was until the 1980s, when it was restored. People were surprised to discover that the dark, somber paintings were actually vibrant. They were very colorful, but they had been covered by almost 500 years' worth of oil and grime.

It was on this day in 1952 that the United States tested the first hydrogen bomb, 3,000 miles west of Hawaii, in the Marshall Islands.

It's the birthday of the writer Stephen Crane, (books by this author) born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1871. His parents both died when he was a teenager, so he had to support himself. He went to New York and tried to make a living by writing. His experience there inspired his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893).

One day, he was reading a copy of Century magazine that had stories about the Civil War, and even though Stephen Crane had never fought, he wrote a book about a 19-year-old Civil War soldier, called The Red Badge of Courage (1895).

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




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