My husband showed me this poem the other night and I couldn’t get over how perfectly captured it was.
Why the Novel Is Necessary but Sometimes Hard to Read
by Marie Howe, from her book The Kingdom of Ordinary Time
It happens in time. Years passed until the old woman,
one snowy morning, realized she had never loved her daughter . . .
Or, Five years later she answered the door, and her suitor had returned
almost unrecognizable from his journeys . . .
But before you get to that part you have to learn the names
you have to suffer not knowing anything about anyone
and slowly come to understand who each of them is, or who each of them
imagines him or her self to be–
and then, because you are the reader, you must try to understand who
you think each of them is because of who you believe yourself to be
in relation to their situation
or to your memory of one very much like it.
Oh it happens in time and time is hard to live through.
I can’t read anything anymore, my dying brother said one afternoon,
not even letters. Come on, Come on, he said, waving his hand in the air,
What am I interested in–plot?
You come upon the person the author put there
as if you’d been pushed into a room and told to watch the dancing–
pushed into pantries, into basements, across moors, into
the great drawing rooms of great cities, into the small cold cabin, or
to here, beside the small running river where a boy is weeping,
and no one comes,
and you have to watch without saying anything he can hear.
One by one the readers come and watch him weeping by the running river,
and he never knows,
unless he too has read the story where a boy feels himself all alone.
This is the life you have written, the novel tells us. What happens next?