Beware the Festive Dog

From River-Horse by William Least Heat Moon(p15) Secker and Warburg 2000:

“It’s a found poem,” Pilotis said of the directions. “Ed picked it up in Japan in 1935. It’s nothing more than a notice explaining the rules of the road to foreign motorists. He hasn’t changed a word except to title it and set it in stanzas.” Pilotis read aloud:”

Beware the Festive Dog

At the rise of the hand
of policeman, stop rapidly.
Do not pass him by
or otherwise disrespect him.

When a passenger of the foot
hove in sight, tootle the horn trumpet
to him melodiously at first.
If he still obstacles your passage,
tootle him with vigour
and express by word of mouth
the warning “Hi,Hi!”

Beware the wandering horse
that he shall not take fright
as you pass him.
Do not explode
the exhaust box at him.
Go soothingly by
or stop by the road-side
till he pass away.

Give big space
to the festive dog
that makes sport
in the road-way.
Avoid entanglement of dog
with your wheel-spokes.

Go soothingly on the grease-mud,
as there lurk the skid demon.
Press the brake of the foot
as you roll round the corners
to save the collapse
and tie-up.

1 Comment

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  1. I don’t know if “tootle” has been accepted into the dictionary but if it hasn’t, it should be. If the likes of “bouncebackability” and “bootylicious” have been accepted, then there’s no reason why the wonderfully expressive and genuinely useful “tootle” shouldn’t be.

    And you could be waiting quite some time at the side of the road whilst waiting for a horse to pass away. They can live for up to thirty years. 😛

    Personally, I love mistranslation like this. I’m in two minds about this one, as driving instructions really should be handled by translation agencies but these are very funny.

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