Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Illiterate

Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand,
And you might think that this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone;
And his is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what is says than to ask someone.

His uncle could have left the farm to him, or
his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

The more often I read this sonnet by William Meredith, the more exquisite it seems.  I memorized the poem last year for Poetry Out Loud! and still it takes my breath away.  The simile is so rich and apt and closely developed that you almost forget that this is about someone touching someone - or something - they adore. 

The sonnet dead?  Fie!

I do wish Meredith were still around so I could thank him.


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