Learning to Read

Jul 17, 2020

Today’s poem is “Learning to Read” by Linda Aldrich. She has published two collections of poetry, Foothold (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and March and Mad Women (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012).  Linda lives in Portland and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College. She is currently serving as Portland’s poet laureate.

She writes, “‘Learning to Read’ is about the time I went camping with my husband in the Rawah Wilderness of Colorado.  We were camped on a hillside above a river, and in the deep quiet of night came big splashing sounds from the river, as though rocks were being thrown into the water.  I couldn't imagine what was making such sounds, and the poem came out of that bafflement.  I learned later it was beavers slapping their tails hard on the surface to scare off predators, but that was after I had written the poem.”

Learning to Read 
By Linda Aldrich

From our tent we hear big rocks fall hard
into the deep side of the river. The dog,
curled into an O at our feet, spells oblivion.
But what of these sounds in the night?
No human voices, no footsteps in the brush.
Certainly, these are not hungry bears
or drunken bullies come to stun the fish?
Could a meteor shower have found our river
a place to cool sudden fingers of white light?
If we were able to see our small tent
bobbing on a prairie of bluestem, blue egg
pressed up against darkness, hot stars
randomly pitched into the wells of our sleep,
would we also see bright words
scripted in the sky above our heads?

Poem copyright ©2012 by Linda Aldrich. Reprinted from March and Mad Women (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012).