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The First Poem I Ever Memorized


When I was a little girl
I read so many things
I had no business reading.

I wonder how much was missed
By my little girl mind?

Sometimes I would try to read something
Just because I knew it was hard:
Snow Falling on Cedars, sixth grade,
Phone call home from the librarian
To say they’d made a mistake
And that book was not meant for my eyes–
My mom said it was alright,
I could finish what I’d started and now
Years and years after Guterson’s parting
All I can remember is Those damn Japs!
Making love the first time inside the hollow of a tree.
A marriage consumated with family
On the other side of a sheet dividing a room.
They had to be quiet.

The next year I tried reading Don Quixote.
Over my head. I had to stop
Before ever getting in and
Begin something a little slower:
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Vampire fiction
Written by a thirteen-year old
Who could kick Stephanie Meyer’s ass.
This girl barely older than me opened the door
To poetry and soul-talk. William Blake
references in her pages leading me
Like sugar to an ant. Found Portable Blake
Brand new at Barnes and Noble
Carried it to school, park, read it in the car
While my mom shopped for groceries.

I wonder how much was missed
By my little girl mind?
Would his Tyger burn brighter
If I found his words now?
And what does it mean
That I couldn’t read Cervantes
But I devoured Blake?
Both greats, but only one earning pages folded
At corners and wet from the bath, food spots
Where two hungers were fed at the table.

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