Speed Reader

A Poem by Peter Mladinic

Here’s a nonfiction tip: Hampton Sides’
In the Kingdom of Ice, a riveting account
of Arctic desolation. Sounds depressing
but the writing redeems it. I found,
when reading, at sea, a Caribbean cruise,
if a fellow passenger had come up,
while I sat in comfort, near a window
that looked out at water and a light sky,
he or she would’ve had to wrench it
from my hands, so enthralled was I in
Sides’ true story of an Arctic venture
at the dawn of the twentieth century.

It was the centerpiece of my cruise,
a book I read quickly, though with most
that’s not the case. I read slowly. But
I recall an afternoon in 1971, a ride
from southern Minnesota to South Dakota,
a man, on our return tip, in the back
of a car; the driver I don’t recall, nor
the airport where we met this man
who was to lecture at our small and
now defunct college. I recall the man’s
wire rim glasses, longish light brown hair,
the brown velour collar of his topcoat.

His clean shaven face, wide, angular,
chiseled. Some talk prompted him
to say he was a speed reader. I sat
“riding shotgun” in a sedan heading back
to Minnesota, a trip I recall little of, only
little curls came down past his ears.
Speed reader, he said, no boast, his tone
buoyant, matter of fact. I thought what
would that be like, to read a whole page
in ten seconds. Katie, you too may be
a speed reader, but eschew the label.
In the Kingdom of Ice is a real good read.

Minneapolis

A Poem by Peter Mladinic

At the lake she touches
her gold crucifix
shadows of leaves
pattern her white blouse
the god she sees is
elsewhere a wood crucifix
in a church with a poor box
a mighty cloud

She sees her fire-red Porsche
weave through traffic
in this Midwest city
her key unlocks a door
in her aquarium lavender
gold and turquoise fish
dart through castle openings
a child one floor above
patters across the ceiling
out the window treetops roofs
taxis cars pedestrians
shadows of leaves
god is the wind the lake
hears her coins drop
one two three
into the poor box