Learning to Read with Dad

Old Lob image
I’m reading from ‘Old Lob’
‘Tɘ hɘ’ I say ‘Tɘ hɘ’
And Dad will be displeased
And tell me that it’s ‘the.’

‘This is Old Lob’s dog Shep.’
What was I, maybe four?
My Mum had bought me ‘Snowdrop’
Which I liked a great deal more

In Woolworth’s up in Mare Street
And Snowdrop was Snow White,
She had the blackest hair.
I loved her at first sight.

I could read Snowdrop’s story,
A far less toilsome job
Than sitting next to Dad
And struggling with Old Lob:

An uninspiring farmer;
On his farm, a naughty chick
Both mischievous and foolish,
Would get up to every trick…

This chick whose name was Percy
Was a literary low
Resisting his cheap appeal
Disturbed my reading flow

And I kept saying: ‘Pairky’
Which Dad would then correct,
He did not see the nature
Of my stubborn disconnect.

Old Lob, Snowdrop, Pairky,
Each an effective tool
So I could read for pleasure
By the time I started school.

My favourite: Enid Blyton
Decent Darrell, snobbish Gwen,
Naughty Claudine – I read all
Between ages five and ten;

Dad said ‘Read the classics,
Get acquainted with Great Lit’
Addicted to adventures,
I avoided holy writ.

But when I hit fourteen,
Osborne, Sillitoe, John Braine –
The modern, angry authors –
Were a thrilling new terrain.

Then, the continentals:
The Outsider, La Nausée
And the Brits: Huxley, Lawrence,
Orwell, Forster, Le Carré

Graham Greene, my kind of angst,
Those sad men of the cloth;
Germans and Americans:
Thomas Mann and Philip Roth.

And, best of all, the Russians
From the century before
Pairky Pairkovich survives
The Napoleonic War.

But what of Dad and his books?
Freddie Forsyth, Howard Fast,
Neville Shute – they have stature,
But are they made to last?

Soon after the millennium,
Dad lost his mobility:
The spine, the hands, the legs.
Though mental agility

Was unimpaired, no longer
Could he turn a page,
We bought him audio books
But he did not quite engage;

He still liked to watch films,
Black and white classic pictures,
Robert Donat, Jack Hawkins,
Better than football fixtures.

Ronald Colman, James Mason,
‘Sergeant Yorke’: a dvd,
Korean subtitles
And quite a rarity.

These were his narratives:
Stories of love and war,
Of courage and virtue,
Upholding moral law,

Moments of redemption,
They serve who stand and wait
Overcoming obstacles,
The Captain of the Gate.
.
The words are our dry bones
Like Ezekiel, we call
To printed page or ebook
The new app we install,

The books become flesh and blood.
We see our own reflection
And know that they are the life
They are the resurrection.

This book life, the young child learns,
Tɘ his. This. Step by step.
Tɘ his. This is Old Lob.
This is Old Lob’s dog Shep.

September 2014

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