Books

My father had an Appalachian education
That went through sixth grade

I went after and got a BA, MA
And a PhD

I doubt my father
Ever finished reading a book

(I once asked him
If he ever read my book on Mev

He said he could only read it
For ten minutes at a time

[Perhaps it was too painful
He loved her very much])

I’ve read thousands of books
My father never knew the pleasures I’ve had

From Shakespeare, Proust
Cardenal, Levertov, Chomsky

But then I’ve never known
What he must have known and felt-

Being different, judged, “Jewish”
When in the Army in the early 1950s

At Fort Leavenworth
Later on in West Germany

Or in the factory on West Broadway
In the big city of Louisville

He rarely talked about his Jewish family
In the 60s and 70s

He only became chatty about it
In the late 80s

From time to time
He would say to me

“All the book-learning in the world
Won’t do you any good

If you don’t have
Common, ordinary horse sense”

He was my Zen Master
He knew how to go for the jugular

Bodhidharma reputedly wasn’t big
On book learning either

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