I want to talk about the blind girl in my writing class
with messed up hair and doughy skin,
who does not bring in pages each week
about some boy who doesn’t love her.
She folds up her aluminum walking stick
like a periscope
after she finds her seat,
and puts it under the conference table.
She takes notes on a little machine
with four keys that click along as I talk.
She raises her hand halfway
when she wants to answer a question.
She smiles and speaks
with a deferential, cheerful lilt.
She somehow finds the door at the end of class
without bumping into the wall.
Everyone is friendly to her.
She writes a lot about forests and oceans
and the cool sand against her skin
and is precise but old fashioned
about the words she uses.
She is generous and intelligent
when she responds to the writing of her classmates,
who bring in pages each week
about some boy who doesn’t love them.
Because the engine that most gets me going
is the human mind, I’m equally happy
sitting outside in this chair
in the four p.m. sunlight, reading an essay
or an act from Shakespeare as I am
playing softball or listening now to that bird in a tree
who sounds like a cross between
a lawn mower trying to start
and water boiling on a stove. Oh,
some half million years ago
when fur sprouted from my ancestors
and books were scarce, that crazy bird
would have beat its cymbal in my stomach
and moistened my salivary glands.
You know, I wasn’t around
when my ancient relative first noticed his body going bald
in the lake’s reflection, and decided
it would be a good idea to put those mammoth skins
to better use than a mattress,
so he invented the first men’s apparel department.
From then on his brain couldn’t stop:
fire, the wheel, a car to put it on,
a thirty thousand word vocabulary
as his body got smoother, less sinewy,
and he forgot the skills he once mastered
with his spear, and the taste for raw blood.
Hi. I’m the furthest along in our family line,
whiling away the afternoon with a book,
my feet in rubber sandals. In an hour or so,
I’ll get up and see what’s in the fridge
that I can warm up on the stove,
then I’ll turn on the game
where I can raise my heart rate
and sweat it out for my team, simply by watching.