Reading, The Great Evil, A Poem by Chris Russell

My student grabs his reading book off the desk

and begins folding and creasing the title page

in on itself as if to say he’s shutting down

and refusing to talk about it, when it’s expected

he follows along with the rest of his class.

I can’t tell you how many people, children and

adults alike, that have told me they hate reading,

that it’s just not their thing, and that I shouldn’t

take offense being an English guy and poet

whose spiritual bread and butter is that word stuff

nobody either wants to or has time to think about.

No problem I tell them, we all have our interests

and skill sets, but that’s so I don’t have to say to them

what I really think. Which is that, on the one hand

I do take offense, and two, while there are some

exceptions of course, without an ability to read, one

becomes aligned to roam the world unconscious

and destructive, a serial killer of common sense,

empathy, communication and human intimacy, a victim

of one’s own impulse rather than a transmuter of chaos

and adversity, that one becomes a destroyer of humanity,

a great evil. To them, reading is a terrifying waste of time, a

painful left-brain to right-brain process that invokes

memories and emotions that steal whatever comfort

they’ve managed to disassociate for themselves with

the help of a nonsensical meme-like consciousness

that favors disjunction over harmony, disparateness

over unity. Reading, many think, has become an emotionally

abusive agent, a thief that comes in the night and steals

your sleep, a reason to run toward a picture book

without words, and as quickly as you can show it silently,

page after page, to your illiterate children, and then

call it reading. I’m reminded of the fictional Necronomicon,

the magical Book of the Dead as presented in the cult

classic movie Army of Darkness, and how, made from

human skin, it threatened to eat the protagonist like

some phonebook-flapping vampire bat, when he didn’t

remember the incantation correctly but tried to come off

like he had.