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"What I Understood," by Katha Pollitt

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Evelyn McCorristin Peters: "What I Understood," by Katha Pollitt

Evelyn McCorristin Peters

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9.24.2009

"What I Understood," by Katha Pollitt

The Mind-Body Problem) --                                                          


When I was a child I understood everything
about, for example, futility.
Standing for hours on the hot asphalt outfield, trudging for balls
I'd ask myself, how many times will I have to perform this pointless task, and all the others?
I knew about snobbery, too, and cruelty—
for children are snobbish and cruel—
and loneliness: in restaurants the dignity and shame of solitary diners disabled me,
and when my grandmother screamed at me, "Someday you'll know what it's like!"
I knew she was right, the way I knew
about the single rooms my teachers went home to,
the pictures on the dresser, the hoard of chocolates,
and that there was no God, and that I would die.
All this I understood, no one needed to tell me.
the only thing I didn't understand
was how in a world whose predominant characteristics
are futility, cruelty, loneliness, disappointment
people are saved every day
by a sparrow, a foghorn, a grassblade, a tablecloth.
This year I'll be
thirty-nine, and I still don't understand it.

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