Sunday, June 19, 2005

for Father's Day

Angel to Love, Man to World: My Father’s Great Books


He swore he would read them all — 54 hefty volumes, plus
a yearly update, each with its own gold-embossed author.
They’re better than encyclopedias, he would say. It’s like
having all the world’s geniuses at your fingertips
.
He was going to follow the Ten-Year Plan, begin with
Hamlet, for instance, or St. Augustine’s Confessions, before
diving into The Decline and Fall — finally get the good
liberal education he never had. Sunday afternoons
he’d pick one color-coded volume: pale yellow for Literature,
dark green for Science, red or blue for History or Philosophy,
and promptly fall asleep in his recliner, the dog-eared first page
folded upon his chest. During the week, my brothers
and I would pile Descartes, Spinoza, Cervantes, Darwin,
to bank the tracks of our electric racecars; my sisters
would practice balancing Herodotus, Thucydides, or Galen
upon head-banded heads, see how solemnly they could posture
around the house, return the prized volumes to their case
before father came home to check for any mischief. Before long
he had collected glossy paperbacks to learn himself
Contracts & Finance, Home Remodeling, Do-It-Yourself
Haircuts
. His Great Books moved to a spot in the hall,
holding up a vase of plastic geraniums. The pair of Indexes,
with their intriguing titles: Angel to Love,
Man to World
, stacked with the only update my father
ever bought: 1961 — as if time and history had stopped
with Kennedy’s Election, Seventeen New Nations in Africa,
Mass Culture, and The Youth Explosion.



*

3 comments:

Esther's Writing Works said...

I love this, Peter

Peter said...

Thx Esther. I still need to pare it down a bit. But I like it so far.

jenni said...

I like it too--I can relate to the father character, i have a pile of books I'm supposed to read, but each time I start them, i seem to fall asleep! Enjoyed the poem.