Books

"Books are our friends."
           A bad grade-school assignment then.
           A wry joke now.

But I am comforted less each time I enter this quiet room full of friends
           who speak but never listen?

This tells the story of a lady who dies beneath a train; the ending never varies.
           And why in this is Wyckham more believable than Darcy?

Here, the whole Civil War in three volumes, every skirmish, raid, and
           crossing; the mud, the blood, the shattered bone, and a girl
           at home baking bread, killed by a stray mini-ball.

In cadences, spare and fine, a poet speaks of youth and love and loss
           so perfectly I can't forbid my tears.

Philip Larkin, Donald Justice, and Billy Collins stand arm in arm with Housman, Dickinson,
            and the Romantics. When I am out, they trade ineffable
           secrets of the uncreated.

Here Sam Johnson labors, in poverty, ill-health, and loneliness, to save
           the glorious tongue of Shakespeare, Doone, and Milton, 200 years
           before television wrecked it forever. A Harvard don has laid out the
           London sage psychologically like a dissected frog pinned open.
           Sam would have hated it; Boswell was a better friend.

A satire proves the Boomer Generation, vain, inconstant, shallow, and foolish
           beyond a doubt. The laughter hurts a little...then a lot.

A brilliant atheist clarifies the six great faiths.
           A young physicist exceeds the speed of light.
           A pundit reviews the century.
           An aging critic sits collected.

I can silence them all with a clap of covers, yet there they stand with their
           backs turned. "Pearls before swine," they are thinking, but with a
           tap on the shoulder, they are ready to jabber on.

With friends like these, why should you care for me at all?
           My friends, no doubt, are wiser, more articulate company.
           And who am I now anyway but a bad digest of them all?
           You are right to tire of me. Go. Be with your own friends.

I'll stay home alone and read.