A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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His Study

An afterthought, my father’s study banked

the north side of the house, its sloping roof

a drum to rain. Mother, of course, assumed

a “normal,” horizontal ceiling, but

my father, with his mix of logic and

that quirky, quiet humor of his, had

persisted and prevailed: “more space

for bookshelves on the south wall if it starts

six feet higher up,” he said. We were

outside in the yard, our feet in grass,

staring at the clapboard wall with

its dingy, peeling paint, a cream of sorts.

It was nineteen thirty one,

and I was five. “Besides,” my father said,

“with all that extra space, just think—above

the bookshelves I could hang that nude of you

I painted last July. It’s just the place.”

He spread his hands as if seeing it

above the ranks of books, his face musing

and abstracted. Then he let his eyes

swivel sideways to meet hers. Her face,

horrified, relaxed. “You sly dog!

You devil, you! Where’s my tennis racquet?”

“All right, all right!” He hadn’t moved. “You win.

We’ll start that rat farm that you always wanted

in the crawl space up above. But

I’m not sure that I can read with all

those little feet scratching overhead.

I might need to build another study

somewhere else. You can have this one,

for a sewing room.” And hands behind

his back, he turned away, whistling,

letting out a great “oomph!”

as mother brought him down. It was

nineteen thirty one, and I was nine.


The room was ceiled at a slant, the shelves

against the south wall rising almost to

its peak, with just space up above them for

a row of prints: the Parthenon,

Acropolis, Coloseum, and

their ilk. But here’s what I loved: I could creep

backwards from my dormer window down

the steep slope of the house roof, to the gentle

slope above my father’s study, where

I’d stretch out in the sun like any cat,

and read.

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