How to Read a Story [poem]

A response to English 295: Intro to Literary Theory

A story isn’t meant
to be taken out of its comfortable pages
and reprinted a hundred times
on clinical white paper.
A story isn’t meant
to be captured, beaten
and pinned down to a desk
with pens and cut open
with the razors of analysis.
You cannot slice it apart
and rifle through its entrails and syntax
and hope to cut the heart out of it.
You can, I suppose, do these things,
if your goal is to kill a story,
for nothing kills a story like
a magnifying glass and a roomful
of literary “experts” with their
red pens, critical theories, and cheap wine.
There the story withers away,
sitting awkwardly on their tables,
naked, vulnerable, exposed and anxious,
like some terrified patient who
watches the physician snap on those white gloves.
How would you like it if someone
grabbed you off the shelf that is your bed
tore off your covers and hauled you, naked,
out into the cold air and glaring lights?
Would you want to impart your secrets
to someone who would treat you that way?
If you want to know a story
and the secrets that it holds,
you must woo those delicate pages.
You must approach it gently
with tender hands
and carry it home with you.
There you must make yourself vulnerable to it,
settle down in a cozy place,
perhaps a chair by the sea, a chaise by the fire, or even your bed.
If you read with sincerity, the story will not recoil from you.
Instead, it will pull you closer
with inviting lines of fine-penned ink.
And as you lie together,
the story may rest its head upon your shoulder,
and whisper a meaning in your ear.

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