How to Experience Joy
Why don’t you read more poems, for starters. Has someone made you feel as though you don’t understand poetry? Maybe a teacher told you that the lake in the poem meant something other than the lake? Perhaps you read the line that contained the word lake and you thought of a lake you knew once, when you were small, before your mother brought you to Houston after your father died, a lake now quite distant in your memory and you rarely think of those trees layered thick on the opposite shore, the dock a finger pointing toward adventure, tomorrow, a cannonball, an inner tube, the pure open air holding you for an instant before your feet broke the surface and the water pulled you deep. Perhaps a ripple passed through you then, while you were reading, a jolt come + gone, an afterimage of a bright moon tapping you from the inside like the water against the dock pilings, a gleam that left you nearly breathless in Mrs. Lucas’s 10th grade English class, too afraid to open your mouth or move your eyes away from the page for fear that the entire world might steal the silver stretch of moon across the water, that one clear image rushing away as Mrs. Lucas was saying your name, calling you back—Well? Well? The lake is a symbol for salvation, she said, or for redemption. The author wants you to see that he has been washed clean, purified. She tapped her pen against her grade book until you nodded. But that lake is still in the poem, waiting for you to return, waiting for you to unlock not what it means, but what it is. You are its only key.