the first love

at one time
when I was 14
the creators brought me
my only feeling of
chance.

my father disliked
books and
my mother disliked
books (because my father
disliked books)
especially those I brought back
from the library:
D.H. Lawrence
Dostoyevsky
Turgenev
Gorky
A. Huxley
Sinclair Lewis
others.

I had my own bedroom
but at 8 p.m.
we were all supposed to sleep:
“Early to bed and early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,”
my father said.

“LIGHTS OUT!” he would shout.

then I would take the bed lamp
place it under the covers
and under the heat and hidden light
I would continue to read:
Ibsen
Shakespeare
Chekhov
Jeffers
Thurber
Conrad Aiken
others.

they brought me chance and hope and
feeling in a place of no chance
no hope, no feeling.

I worked for it.
it got hot under the covers.
sometimes the lamp would begin to smoke
or   the sheets–there would be a
burning;
then I’d switch the lamp off,
place it outside to
cool.

without those books
I’m not quite sure
how I would have gone
then:
raving; the
murder of the father;
idiocy; imbecility;
drab hopelessness.

when my father shouted
“LIGHTS OUT!”
I’m sure he feared
the well-written word
that appeared with gentleness
and reasonableness
in our best and
most interesting
literature.

and   it was there
close to me
under the covers
more woman than woman
more man than man

I had it all
and
I took it.