I have a hot dog for a pet,
The only kind my folks let me get
He does smell sort of bad
He absolutely never gets the sofa wet
We have a butcher for a vet
The strangest vet you ever met
Guess we’re the weirdest family yet
To have a hot dog for a pet
– Shel Silverstein
This has been my go-to poem for over a decade. In elementary school I presented this, from memory, to my second grade class; in the fifth grade, I wrote a short story about a boy that had a pineapple as a pet. Though it may not be particularly deep or symbolic, this poem was a standout favorite of mine, the most heavily-dog-eared page of all of my Shel Silverstein books. Though my intellectual appreciation of poetry and literature has grown, I’ll always enjoy silly, heartwarming poems like this.
“Why did they have to mix their women into everything? Between us and everything we wanted to change in the world they placed a woman: socially, politically, economically. Why, goddammit, why did they insist upon confusing the class struggle with the ass struggle, debasing both us and them- all human motives?”
-Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
At first glance, this passage made me laugh–after all, much of the novel is infused with this type of clever, understated humor. The narrator, at this point, is frustrated by The Brotherhood’s use of women to distract him and weaken his authority in New York. More importantly, however, Ellison reminds the reader of politicians’ and leaders’ humanity. Though the narrator is noble, he is equally susceptible to primal urges, such as infatuation and sex. In pursuing his goals of transforming the black community in New York, he must avoid allowing his human qualities to interfere, which is no easy task.