I met him on the bus to somewhere,
He was a Brit and he was seventy four years old.
Every Brit I got to talking to
Was always seventy four years old.
He asked me what I did.
I said, “not much.”
He snorted and then he said,
“no really, I mean, back home.”
I told him I mixed up drinks,
And made stabs at writing.
His eyes blazed and he smiled all big and bright,
And finally, after a few false starts, said,
“I’m proud to say,
not to throw dirt at your chosen profession,
that I haven’t read a book since 1988.”
I thought about this for a moment.
Either he was old and senile,
And maybe meant 1984 by Orwell,
Or he was serious,
And he meant he hadn’t read a book in 20 years.
“I just decided, I’ve read enough. I need to DO!”
That clarified it for me.
The old fucker hadn’t read a book
In twenty years.
Maybe it was something to admire.
I knew nobody else who’d accomplished that feat.
“but I’m thinking of getting back into it.
Maybe I’ll read a book if you write one.”
I gave a little laugh.
“naw, that wouldn’t be good.
Then you’d probably wanna go
another twenty years
Without reading a book again.”
“so you’re that good, huh, that confident?”
“I’m that confident that you wouldn’t dig my style,
How about that?”
“well, now I’m screwed either way.
If I don’t read your book,
I’m narrow-minded and afraid,
And if I do,
I break my non book-reading
Which has lasted since 1988.”
I turned to him and held in a laugh,
Not about the reading thing,
Or anything like that,
But because he looked exactly like Martin Sheen,
And I’d just realized this. I wondered,
“does Martin Sheen read books, and would he read mine?”
“well,” I said to him, “ I guess you’re screwed,
Either way then.”