Can read, won’t read.
Would read, don’t read.
That book sits face up on the table
next to me, it’s eyes staring at
my sheepish ones, like those
of a portrait that follow you
around the room, accusing, unblinking.
Or maybe they’re like
those of that dead French soldier
lying in the crater with Paul Bäumer
in All Quiet on the Western Front,
another book I never finished.
Like Paul, I feel remorse, loss,
over somehow killing my old hunger.
I was once voracious like you,
but lost the combat for my consciousness
and now I lie here, paralyzed,
with my toes framing that big screen,
notebook and tablet on my lap,
pinned down in my depression by this
bombardment of distractions.
I want to pick up that book and
conquer it, but, shell-shocked by media,
all I do is numbly flip a couple of pages
and place it face-down again.
I really wish I could be like you,
finishing every bit of reading you…
– Joseph Hesch
© 2016, poem, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved; illustration under fair use, the cover of the first English language edition of Im Westen nichts Neues, a novel of the First World War. The translation was entitled All Quiet on the Western Front, not a reference to peace but to stagnation.