The Death of the Reader

posted Apr 5, 2011

I have not read a book since my divorce,
or, I have been a bad reader and have read
books, but have not finished them, or, I may
or may not have read some books, but only
those I read as a child, and those to my son,
or, I have picked up books in order to love
them, but have been unable to. I have loved
so many books, and by that I mean novels,
those books that are to lose oneself inside,
to hide in a duck blind, to hide behind a door
with an axe, to hide in a tree with a friend,
to crush a birdnest in the fist to watch the
smallest shells fall through the sunlight, to
pick up a gun and fire it by accident and
kill my ten year old twin, my father
running through the tall grass like he is
under water, I have never seen him run
so fast. Even hiding in the farmhouse,
fantasizing about a floor that can be hosed
clean. Mostly, though, the duck blind,
and being caught there, my long dress
having trailed the mud, and later my death,
there, in the second floor bed, my eyes
two awful things, my death a black thing.
This is the tenth poem I have written about
my death, or at least the death of the reader,
or at least the death of the reader who cannot
read books, only poems. A poem can break
your heart in the short term, and over and over,
in the same way, and in others, the shards falling
through the treelimbs to the pasture below.
This is the heartbreak I am after. Not the one
after the marriage, the long marriage, the forty
open acres of marriage, the fifty page ending.
Just the snapping open of a valve, the chamber
squeezing like a fist, the heart breaking like
a bird's egg, untended, desiccated, sparkling
in the evening light, so beautiful, so light
and diaphanous it almost doesn't fall.

Kerrin McCadden’s poems have recently appeared or will soon in American Poetry Review, Hunger Mountain, RATTLE, Poet Lore, Pank, The Fiddlehead, Painted Bride Quarterly and New Delta Review. She was a finalist for the 2010 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize and a semi-finalist for the "Discovery"/Boston Review 2010 Poetry Contest, the 2010 Ralph Nading Hill Award and the 2009 RATTLE Poetry Prize. She was also nominated for Best New Poets 2010. She teaches creative writing and literature at Montpelier High School and is on the poetry faculty at The New England Young Writers' Conference at Bread Loaf. She lives in Plainfield, Vermont.

McCadden’s poem “The Domino's Pizza Gorilla” also appears in this issue.