The Reader
Bearded Man Reading, Dirk van Hoogstraten, Source:

The Reader

It waited for him in the dusty treatises

On his father’s bookshelf, in the back stacks

Of the local library, in the rare book room

And the manuscript collection on the fifth floor,

In the basement where they kept the well-thumbed

Periodicals and crumbling theology texts.

Unshelved and displaced, uncatalogued, overdue,

It waited in the background while he scanned

The names of authors, writing down titles.

It shuddered when he read about the infinite

Starry spaces and the fast-moving river

Into which he would never step twice,

And it paused in the margins of the ancients,

In archaic Greek rituals and thunderous voices

Rising out of the whirlwind. He could not

Hear it breathing between the pages, belabored

In German, trilling in Spanish, stammering

Backward in Hebrew. He did not listen

To it crying out softly in the trees

Like a prophecy, though it waited for him

Nonetheless, a patient and faithful oblivion,

An emptiness, which he would not call God.


—Edward Hirsch

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