Against the Evidence

As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up   
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won’t hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together   
at my touch.
                       All my life
I’ve held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out   
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.   
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off   
and mine begin. I am so much alone   
in the world, I can observe the stars   
or study the breeze, I can count the steps   
on a stair on the way up or down,   
and I can look at another human being   
and get a smile, knowing
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement   
among the human race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.   
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.

David Ignatow, “Against the Evidence” from Against the Evidence: Selected Poems 1934-1994. Copyright © 1993 by David Ignatow. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Against the Evidence: Selected Poems 1934-1994 (Wesleyan University Press, 1993)
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