In Honor of Charles Dickens on the 200th Anniversary of His Birth

Dickens' writing desk. Image Courtesy of


He wakes up every day and reads
most days only for a few minutes
before he has to work the fields.

He always plans to read more
before he goes to sleep but
the candlelight and exhaustion
put the plan neatly away.

He hates the reading,
wonders if he should find
something other than
Great Expectations.

But he doesn’t have
any other books,
and he thinks of reading
like he thinks of church.

And one Sunday after sleeping
through the sermon,
he comes home and picks up
his one book.

He finds his place
planning to read just
those few minutes
but goes on and on.

The line that gets him
is about how “our worst
weaknesses and meanness”
are “for the sake of” those
“we most despise.”

He reads it over and over
and then goes on intent
on making sense of the words
and finding that they make their own.

After a while he stops to consider
beginning the entire book again
feeling he’s missed too much
but he goes back to where he left off.

The next day in the field he puts
everything he sees into silent words
and that night he reads for the first time
before falling asleep.

The next day in the field he describes
to himself his feelings about his work
and later holds things in their places
with words as he moves around in time.

The words are the only constant,
as even their objects can shift
through his life, childhood,
senility, and through the life of the land.

He wants to write down his days on paper
because he believes if he does then he can
go anywhere, do anything, and yet still
there he’ll be.

It’s not that Dickens was right that got him,
but that he was wrong—
even Pip must’ve known his worst
wasn’t for anyone but Estella,
nor his best.

One day could stretch to a whole
book of bound pages like the one
in his hands, or it could start and finish
on just one.

He imagines writing right over
the grand typeset words of Dickens'
on page one, “Hard to believe,
I woke up, excited to read.
I wished I could keep reading all day.”

                                                Sunday, June 22, 2008, 11:43 am.