The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

By Stephen Dunn

A woman's taking her late-afternoon walk
on Chestnut where no sidewalk exists
and houses with gravel driveways
sit back among the pines. Only the house
with the vicious dog is close to the road.
An electric fence keeps him in check.
When she comes to that house, the woman
always crosses to the other side.

I'm the woman's husband. It's a problem
loving your protagonist too much.
Soon the dog is going to break through
that fence, teeth bared, and go for my wife.
She will be helpless. I'm out of town,
helpless too. Here comes the dog.
What kind of dog? A mad dog, a dog
like one of those teenagers who just loses it
on the playground, kills a teacher.

Something's going to happen that can't happen
in a good story: out of nowhere a car
comes and kills the dog. The dog flies
in the air, lands in a patch of delphiniums.
My wife is crying now. The woman who hit
the dog has gotten out of her car. She holds
both hands to her face. The woman who owns
the dog has run out of her house. Three women
crying in the street, each for different reasons.

All of this is so unlikely; it's as if
I've found myself in a country of pure fact,
miles from truth's more demanding realm.
When I listened to my wife's story on the phone
I knew I'd take it from her, tell it
every which way until it had an order
and a deceptive period at the end. That's what
I always do in the face of helplessness,
make some arrangements if I can.

Praise the odd, serendipitous world.
Nothing I'd be inclined to think of
would have stopped that dog.
Only the facts saved her.


I am sun-fried after a lovely day of music. We went to the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park, a former amusement park that's now an artist's colony, nature center and playground which is also home to a children's theater, a puppet theater and a ballroom, all on the grounds of a former amusement park now overgrown but with many of its original buildings still standing and the carousel still in use. (If you have seen the movie Hairspray, you've seen a version of some of the history of Glen Echo Amusement Park; I'll post photos of the park itself tomorrow.) I worked at Adventure Theatre in high school -- it was my first and only professional theater experience, and two of the actors I worked with, Christopher Piper and Allan Stevens, went on to co-found The Puppet Company, so I am very deeply attached to this place and these buildings.

First we saw hammered dulcimer player Maggie Sansone, with Lisa Moscatiello on guitar and Fred Lieder on cello, then after lunch we saw just Lisa and Fred performing their own music and songs they often play (they did "Second Avenue," "Throw It Away," "Now Be Thankful" and a couple of others). Then after stopping at the House of Musical Traditions stall we went to see the Chanteymen of Ship's Company who were dressed in an array of naval styles -- pre-1700, American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War and who sang songs from most of those periods, plus some modern ones. After that we took our antsy kids to the playground, which was beside the stage where Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer were just finishing up a set, and when the kids got tired we went inside the tent to hear Mystic Warriors, an Andean group we have gone to see many times before at the Baltimore harborfront and at the Smithsonian. There were also food vendors and a craft show held in the old bumper car pavilion.

On the way home we stopped in the Bethesda Co-op because folk festivals always put me in the mood for granola food, then we went to my parents for dinner (barbecue, originally planned to be eaten outside but it was beastly hot all day and still humid so we stayed in). I was quite fried when we got home so I crashed on the couch and watched the Tony Awards, which would have been a lot more fun had they not felt even more relentlessly commercial as the Oscars. How much did TIAA offer CBS to get Hugh Jackman and Aretha Franklin to sing "Somewhere" which is not coincidentally the theme song of their advertising campaign, which ran during the show several times? They had to cut out several live awards and cut off several speeches so Aretha could oversing the end of the song and drive the point home. And now Mandy Patinkin, whom I first knew as Che in the Broadway production of Evita, not only plays a doctor on TV but in Crestor commercials as well! I guess they dropped Patrick Stewart. I wonder whether the ad hurt or helped Patinkin's credibility when they then ran an ad for his new crime series. Jackman got in a couple of funny lines ("We have so many people who go both ways here. Movies and theater.") but he seemed rather down compared to last year, there were some stunning gaffes in presentations and I suspect that, as I felt during this year's Oscars, the best show was probably overlooked for the show that garnered the most press in the weeks leading up to the awards, though I didn't see any of the nominated musicals so I don't really know.

Anyway, I am still utterly fried from too much sun so I leave you with...

Ship's Company on the Family Stage finishing "The Mermaid." They mostly sang a cappella encouraged everyone to sing along, explaining that one really doesn't need to be able to carry a tune to sound good on "Six Feet of Mud" anyway.

One of the yurts where crafts are constructed and sold. These are permanent and leased to artists year-round, not just for the festival, but many of them had hands-on demonstrations over the weekend.

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer on the Crystal Pool Stage. The ground was so wet from the week's rain that the organizers had a tarp down over a lot of it for people to sit on.

Mystic Warriors on the same stage by the playground. The guy in the middle can play the drum and pan flute at the same time, and he's also an excellent soloist on several different varieties of string instruments.

An angora bunny being combed for fur in the large craft display in the bumper car pavilion.

Maggie, Lisa and Fred performing a 12th century Persian piece on the Puppet Theatre stage. This is the clearest photo of Maggie I got, since I couldn't use flash, I was trying to listen and she was moving very quickly over the dulcimer -- sorry. Lisa explained that it was the first time she had worn a sarong to perform and she was afraid of having a wardrobe malfunction.

That sign says it all. Anyone who could leave the festival without buying a bag has willpower beyond my imagination, or else doesn't like cinnamon or almonds.

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