Dennis Finnell
The Literacy Project

Wednesday night. Time to word her together again, time to help the gaunt woman read,
Reread Louis L'Amour. Dopey Wentz puffed feverishly at a cigarette.
She addresses the text on the table with her eyes, with her brain stem. She says, Do we.
I ask, Do we what? Wednesday night begins to fetch a pail of water.
It's not "Do we," I say to the gaunt woman. It's Dopey Wentz. From last week's story.
Oh, she says, but it says "D-o" and then "W-e." I say, Yes and no.

Every single Wednesday night she and I climb the hill that says no
To her phonemes, no to her larynx. She stares into Louis L'Amour to read
The tea leaves in the pail. They say, Kinsella didn't like that. What's your story,
I want to ask the gaunt woman. Is your face tinned from smoking generic cigarettes?
Are you a fused whole of language culture personality? Fused like H2O
From hydrogen oxygen? Or heavy water? Or are you a me a myself an I? Are you a we?

I say, Kinsella's a character's name. She says, Kingseller. I think, Mais oui
For her open mouth. I am an avocaensis for her tongue. She and I know. We know
The unsaid. We know any word (like Kinsella) can be an unshod walk on water.
Then we swallow the Illiterate Sea. Then it swallows us. The gaunt woman bows to read
Any guy on the weed was undependable. She reads it perfectly, knows weed means cigarette,
Knows undependable—she's fused—from her own personal history.

She and I stand on top of the hill. (She read it perfectly.) Ready for more story,
Ready to fall and break our crowns, the pail emptying. She and I read. We
Read, Kinsella shrugged and inhaled deeply. She asks, Did he breathe Dopey's cigarette.
Then she says, So that's what "shrugged" looks like. Now I know. We know,
But next Wednesday she won't see "shrugged." She will stare into it to read
She's rugged. I will say, Yes and no. Not just our names are writ on water.

It's 8 o'clock, time for her cigarette break. How long since I had scotch and water?
Has it been a week? Forgetfulness walks eternity. To read
To be. To read motions mortality. To be able to die. To perish. To cease. To know
It by how a sentence sways. She's back, finished puffing feverishly at her cigarette.
She walks stiff-legged to the table. She's shaking her head. Is it ennui?
She says, I'm so stupid, I can't read this story,

But from the table it stares up at her. It reads her gaunt. She and the story
Burn one another's face. You're not stupid, I say. Are my words just a teaspoon of water
Out of the Illiterate Sea? Please try, I say to her, Together we . . .
Tony Kinsella looked at his platinum wrist-watch, she tries to read
But sees a plate on Tony's wrist. Just ten minutes to go. Her breath is generic cigarette.
A word is more than a chalk outline of the victim. Word and body know

The corpse inspires the chalk. They rise, walk off together. End of story.
She says Thanks and lights up a cigarette. Isn't smoke a fluid, like muddy water?
See you next Wednesday, I say to the gaunt smoke. I think, Read "we."