Although the Christian Church, of all shapes and shades, of all hues of holiness, has just celebrated Easter Resurrection, sadness still prevails. Our world is in chaos and crisis brought on by our inhumanity to one another. Democratic institutions seem unable and sadly unwilling to be democratic. Therefore, today I am turning on a much lighter note to the fun and silly poems of Billy Collins. However, before we should think all his words are fun or silly, we need to “look” carefully for his tongue in cheek lines which often beg us to read it again and stop and look.
Early reading for me was with Dick and Dora, Nip and Fluff, perhaps for you it was Janet and John, or Peter and Jane or Jane and Dick. In the late 1950s all the way through the 1960s reading was taught to many as word recognition through repetition! Whether such educational methods were right or wrong, good or better, I will leave others more knowledgeable than me to guide us forward. For now I share Collins poem First Reader. I hope his words cause you to remember, once upon a time!
I can see them standing politely on the wide pages
that I was still learning to turn,
Jane in a blue jumper, Dick with his crayon-brown hair,
playing with a ball or exploring the cosmos
of the backyard, unaware they are the first characters,
the boy and girl who begin fiction.
Beyond the simple illustrations of their neighborhood,
the other protagonists were waiting in a huddle:
frightening Heathcliff, frightened Pip, Nick Adams
carrying a fishing rod, Emma Bovary riding into Rouen.
But I would read about the perfect boy and his sister
even before I would read about Adam and Eve, garden and gate,
and before I heard the name Gutenberg, the type
of their simple talk was moving into my focusing eyes.
It was always Saturday and he and she
were always pointing at something and shouting,
“Look!” pointing at the dog, the bicycle, or at their father
as he pushed a hand mower over the lawn,
waving at aproned mother framed in the kitchen doorway,
pointing toward the sky, pointing at each other.
They wanted us to look but we had looked already
and seen the shaded lawn, the wagon, the postman.
We had seen the dog, walked, watered and fed the animal,
and now it was time to discover the infinite, clicking
permutations of the alphabet’s small and capital letters.
Alphabetical ourselves in the rows of classroom desks,
we were forgetting how to look, learning how to read.
Lord God of Easter Resurrection
All things become new.
I pray for resurrection transformation
to be real under my skin, to be real
in my bones and to stir change in my
soul and mind.
Holy God of Easter Resurrection, come quickly
to our aid. Come quickly, not only because we
pray but also because we fall silent, speechless.
You who are the Word, speak that we might hear, become
flesh that we might see.
Holy God of Easter Resurrection,
come to our aid and out of our chaos and crisis hear our cries and
prayers for courage, forgiveness, faith, hope and love. Amen.
One thought on ““Look””
For many of us, the scenes painted in early readers were of our realities, common as bread and butter, everyday family life spread across many pages in only a few words. For others, not so much, for their protagonists weren’t quite as gentle and their early lives not quite as simple and so Dick and Jane were indeed the boy and girl who brought fiction.
I’m amused by Collins’ “huddle” and he certainly did an accurate job of choosing the group that lived in my neighborhood, only it would be years beyond my early reader days that I would recognize these individuals as such.
Collins’ stern warning in the end gives me pause. I suppose there is danger in doing too much of anything, including reading. And reading too much of the “wrong” stuff can lead one down a very rocky path as we’ve seen in profiles of those who commit violent acts, too many times in our troubled world.