Scratches

This is how it begins:
scratches on signs, on blocks
on a white page. Then the
scratches start to dance. They
recombinate, they collect sounds
they call your name.
Like so much in childhood
they are ciphers, full of secrets
but once you learn the dance
the secrets of the world
and more, are revealed.
You learn to read.

You learn:
manners from Goldilocks
curiosity from George
gluttony from Peter
the import of nonsense from Alice.
You set sail with Jim Hawkins, raft with Huck
row with Mole.
You learn that love is eternal, from Catherine
but so is madness, says the first Mrs. Rochester.
Jeeves helps you laugh
poetry helps you cry
Atticus shows you how to do both, with courage.

Not only have the scratches shaped the world
they have shaped your world.
They have taught you how to see.
Now you need never be afraid.
Now you will never be alone.
In the darkest night
in the deepest solitude
the scratches will call to you.
You will open the covers.
They will reach out their arms and say
"Hey! You thought you were the only one?
You're not."


Originally published by Weinberg Memorial Library Newsletter, Spring 2010