My mother loved her sofa. No, more than that, she revered it. You could tell by the look in her eye and the way she sighed when she looked at it. Revered it to the point that she encased it in clear plastic to protect it from dust and spills and the sweaty young bodies and mud-clogged sneakers of her sons. But she never enjoyed the sofa, never sat on it or felt the embrace of its soft, sumptuous cushions.
I hated that sofa and, for a time, hated poetry, thanks to an English teacher who got that same look and offered that same sigh every time he read a poem to the class. Like my mother, he saw something more than a sofa, more than a poem. And it had the effect of encasing poetry in plastic for me.
In a moment of anger, I dashed off the following poem, which I can recite from memory now, even though I wrote it nearly 50 years ago.
I am a poem.
Read me, if you will,
Over coffee or tea,
It won’t bother me.
Have some cake, too,
Take plenty of time.
If you don’t have a napkin,
By all means use mine.
Not exactly a world-class poem, mind, but it served its purpose of getting me to read poetry again—and enjoy it. No, not just enjoy it, but wallow in it, get lost in it, wrap myself in it. But never with reverence, never with plastic, and never on Mom’s sofa.