by Gale Acuff

I DON'T MIND learning to write but I don't
want to read anything, would still rather
be read to, the way Mother read to me
before I had to start coming to school
and give up happiness for fitting in.

For hearing a story is better than
having to figure out with your eyes
when your ears can put it all together
and your brain and heart can receive and then
pass it on to your soul. I'm in first grade

and have been for a week so I don't know
everything but I know more than any-
thing and that's a lot better than nothing.
When someone reads to me I close my eyes
and see it all and when I open them

just ask me any old question about
what I've heard and you'll swear I told the tale
myself. But make me try to read it--if
my lips move then I'm reading too fast--and I'm
lost. That's what education is good for

--I could be wrong. I mean, I'm no expert.
After all, when Mother reads to me, well,
what I'm trying to say is I admit
I wouldn't hear anything unless she
herself had learned to read. Maybe I'm spoiled

--Teacher thinks so: How can you learn to write
your name and address and phone number and
Sally, Dick, and Jane--not to mention Spot
and Puff
(first she says she won't mention them
and then she does)--but you won't read aloud

when it's your time? I'm just about to kick
the ball at recess when she pulls me out
of line to ask me that. I miss my turn.
I don't know, I say. I believe in God
but when I read the Bible it spoils it.

She covers her mouth and her eyes go wide
and I'm afraid, at first, that I've slain her.
I hate reading, I say--my ears can't hear
when my eyes are talking so loud. Let's go
see Principal,
she says. Now I've done it.

I tell her my side of the story and
she laughs and laughs. When you grow up you'll be
a great man,
she says. But I tell you what:
when your teacher calls on you to read, do
as she says and pretend that you're telling

a story and the words you see are just
your listeners.
She gets up. I get up.
Yes, ma'am, I say--by cracky, I'll try it.
The next day I do and it works. Teacher
pulls me out of jump-rope line at recess.

My, she says, you've made me very happy.
Yes, ma'am, I say--I'm all for happiness.
When I get home I say to Mother, Guess
what I can do? What, she asks. I can make
women happy. Tell your father, she says.

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