I never saw Dick run or Jane jump. I learned
to read with Sid and Ned, an old mole of a man
and his city-kid friend.  They built kites
out of popsicle sticks or tinkered with Ned’s bike,
adding a gold horn that shined like a trombone.

When they hiked to the creek, Ned ran ahead.
“Slow down, Ned,” Sid said, huffing along
with his cane. At the creek they floated
little cardboard canoes. Ned’s came unglued,
opened on the water like a flower.

With Ned, I learned that old men take too long
to hike a hill, that one day I’d be old too.
One day, I’ll sit in diners alone. The busboy
will ask what I’m reading, or why I smile when
I smell the spine of an old book. His faded jacket

will remind me of libraries and kissing,
and his questions will stack against each other
like sad tenements beside a brown river.
That busboy will make me want to learn all over
again, to comprehend numbers for the first time,

to associate a numeral with the sum of marbles
in my pocket. I want to hear the words persimmon
or christening and not know what they mean.
I want to play a trumpet instead of a flute,
make a little noise before it’s too late.


Photo By: Martin LaBar