Through what precinct of life’s forest are you hiking at this moment?
Are you kicking up leaf litter or stabbed by brambles?
Of what stuff are you made? Gossamer or chain mail?
Are you, as reputed, marvelously empty? Or invisibly ever- present,
even as this missive is typed? Have you been to Easter Island? Yes?
Then I’m jealous. Do you use a tongue depressor as bookmark?
Are you reading this at an indecent hour by flashlight?
Plenty of scholarly ink has been spilt praising readers like yourself,
who risk radical dismantling, or being unmasked, by rappelling
deep into sentences. Your trigger warnings could be triggered every
second, yet you forge on, mystic syllables detonating in your head,
the metal-edged smell of monsoon-downpour on hot asphalt
raising steam in your imagination. You hold out for the phrase
with which the soul resonates, am I right? Reading, you’re seized
by tingly feelings, a rustling in the brain, winds that tickle your scalp,
bubbles erupting from a blow hole at the back of your neck.
You forget the breathy woman talking softly on TV across the lobby
(via TiVo you’ve saved her for later.) Birds outside are cracking jokes
and cackling. Reader, smile to yourself, rock the cradle, kiss
everyone you wish to kiss, and please keep reading. It beats
fielding threatening phone calls for $15 an hour which is what
yours truly is meant to be doing right now, instead of speculating
on the strange and happy manifestations of, you, dear reader, you.
Copyright © 2016 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“I wanted to re-route (or seem to) the poem’s speaker’s attention, away from the poem itself, and from the idea of the writer, characters and/or subjects in the poem to instead try to shine a light on (or seem to) that essential but oft misunderstood creature, the reader. Hopefully, the poem is an ode to reading and readers, with just a soupçon of narcissism discernible in the speaker’s voice.”
Amy Gerstler is the author of several collections, including Bitter Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Date Published: 2016-07-08
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/dear-reader