Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Listen

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Listen

Article excerpt

for Keith

Whenever I fear myself a bore

I think of listening. I should,

I tell myself, do it more.

I know a man who can give

more attention to his meal

than a room, yet still listen.

He looks suspiciously like Ruskin.

He does not boast. Yet if he recollects

an anecdote illustrative of human folly

a mischievous gleam inflects

his milky blue eyes, trailed by a little grin.

The failure of outlandish ploys

especially delights him.

He sometimes speaks about the Bible

as though he knows it start to end. He does.

Though he is neither pious nor dour.

When I sit in his proximity I have a tendency

to chatter. Am I nervous or trying to amuse?

I am trying to set him off, in a friendly way.

To elicit the licit state of listening:

I seek the open sesame, the magic word

that will joggle the charmed book

from off the shelf of his memory.

I will not have heard of it. My naivete,

ever on offer, raises the eyebrows

of my interlocutor. They are wiry and stiff.

He has given me gifts that bid me listen. …

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