Tuesday, April 17, 2018


June 1969.
Family vacation
to visit relatives.
Somehow, the unthinkable happens.
I run out of reading material.

I mount the steep stairs
to my grandmother's attic.
Find a box of books in one corner. 
Thick adult books.
Faded water stained covers.
Yellowing pages.
Small print.
The choices are paltry.

500-page biography of Queen Victoria
is close to the top. 
I begin reading.
I read and read and read.
DRINA is long.
I don't know much about English history
DRINA is hard to understand. 
I read and read and read.
DRINA is boring.
I do not finish in the week
I spend at my grandmother's. 
She lets me put DRINA in my suitcase.
I am not a quitter reader.

By the end of the summer
I have finished DRINA.
It is easily the longest book I have ever read. 
I can recite a few random facts.
Queen Victoria's real name was Alexandrina.
Drina shared a bedroom with her mother 
until she became queen at age 18.
Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert. 

Fifty years later I am a teacher. 
Every time we talk about rigor
I picture that faded navy blue cover.
I remember DRINA.
If a text is long and hard and boring
and the reader doesn't quit
does that count as rigor?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018


Mary Lee said...

Yes. Yes, it does.

Glenda Funk said...

Yes, reading a long, hard book counts as rigor, but I see the subtext of your poem as an argument for each reader determining what rigor is for her. The way you frame this moment in history (1969) compared to the language about reading we hear today illuminates much about pedagogical trends.

Ramona said...

This makes me think about the summer I was fifteen and read a book about Josephine and Napoleon. I can't remember the title, but it was long, I didn't know much about French history, but I stuck with it too. Yes, Carol, both of our books counted as rigor.