Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday, A Poem

I realized today, looking at my bedraggled potted flowers on the deck that I have been in denial about autumn's arrival, dreading a little the time when they will all be consigned to to compost heap, and the summer colors will be replaced by fall colors, then all too quickly by the grays and blacks of winter.  I installed a reading lamp in the room where I have been spending lots of time lately, since it grows too dark for me to read earlier and earlier each day.

I haven't been doing any art at all - though I was honored to get some public recognition and a cash award this weekend in Madison for a painting I did last winter.  Instead I have been continuing to compile a vast family history, one that has brought me into communication with far flung distant cousins, and oddly enough, inspired me to add titles to my reading list.  I discovered a very distant connection between my maternal grandmother's ancestors and Daniel Boone's family, and find myself engrossed in a biography of the frontiersman.  Likewise, another branch of her people left Indiana and emigrated west to Oregon by covered wagon, and I find myself wanting to read titles by A.B. Guthrie, The Big Sky and The Way West.
What would my life be without the comfort and self-education that comes from being able to read? Billy Collins' poem First Reader brings back a memory from the two-room country schoolhouse I attended.  I only hope the last line isn't altogether true.  I want to always be able to both read, and look.

First Reader
by Billy Collins

I can see them standing politely on the wide pages
that I was still learning to turn
Jane in a blue jumper, Dick with his crayon brown hair,
playing with a ball or exploring the cosmos
of the backyard, unaware they are the first characters,
the boy and the girl who begin fiction.
Beyond the simple illustration of their neighborhood
the other protagonists were waiting in a huddle:
frightening Heathcliff, frightened Pip, Nick Adams
carrying a fishing rod, Emma Bovary riding into Rouen.
But I would read about the perfect boy and his sister
even before I would read about Adam and Eve, garden and gate,
and before I heard the name Gutenberg, the type
of their simple talk was moving into my focusing eyes.
It was always Saturday and he and she
were always pointing at something and shouting “Look!”
pointing at the dog, the bicycle, or at their father
as he pushed a hand mower over the lawn,
waving at aproned Mother framed in the kitchen doorway,
pointing toward the sky, pointing at each other.
They wanted us to look but we had looked already
and seen the shaded lawn, the wagon, the postman.
We had seen the dog, walked, watered and fed the animal,
and now it was time to discover the infinite, clicking
permutations of the alphabet’s small and capital letters.
Alphabetical ourselves in the rows of classroom desks,
we were forgetting how to look, learning how to read.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I love Billy Collins! Your blog posts are so full of things to ponder ~ ~ ~