Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Learning to Read
If I had to look up every fifth or sixth word
so what. I looked them up.
I had nowhere important to be.
My father was unavailable, and my mother
looked like she was about to break,
and not into blossom, every time I spoke.
My favorite was called the Iliad. True,
I had trouble pronouncing the names,
but when was I going to pronounce them, and
My stepfather maybe?
Number one, he could barely speak English;
two, he had sufficient intent
to smirk or knock me down
without any prompting from me.
Loneliness, boredom and terror
I get down on my knees and thank God for them.
Du Fu, the Psalms, Whitman, Rilke.
Life has taught me
to understand books.
This poem expresses what many of us relate to--books as a way of getting through childhood--its loneliness and sense of being somehow "different from the others" (even when we were not abused in the usual sense.) And even with important spiritual openings, books can serve a similar purpose. Sometimes they are all we have. They link us with other spirits, great teachers of the past and present, those who have traveled the road before us.
(Picture is from Wikipedia. Achilles and Patroclus were two Greek warriors at the battle for Troy, which is the subject of the Iliad. They were intimate friends, with love for one another "surpassing the love of women.")