I heard the children playing in the town pool.
From across the street and down a steep bank,
their laughter rose up to tempt me, along with
their tinny music, diminished with the distance
like a tall boat on the horizon shrunk to nothing.
I was on my bed, window open, reading--
Gulliver was waking to find himself
staked under a burning sun, his clothing
and hair knotted to fine strings, the strings pegged
to the ground by tiny people with tiny
voices, like a tin-can telephone’s. I wanted
to splash and tan in the sun, but, even more,
to be rescued from the weak and small, that
first summer I stayed inside my head.
That book, and others, we’d found in the house
when we moved in. It was signed in a neat
round hand on the flyleaf Nathan B., a man
who’d killed himself and left his sister alone.
You can read books and do yourself in. Or not
read them, and do the same. I own his The Light
that Failed and his sister’s college annual
from ’22, when Billy Sunday came
and preached the Book, and maybe saved her
from what her brother did. Or made her laugh.
I own a book of poems Daddy annotated
in the months before he did himself in.
I dog-ear pages and scribble notes. Dear book,
they promise, someday I’m coming back to you.
Webster’s Reading Room (Old Mountain Press, 2020)