In the Beginning by Robbi Nester

In the Beginning

When I was three, the street signs used to taunt
me with arcane symbols, not yet words. I knew
that if I studied them, they would open-sesame
the world I dreamed about, the one in books,
built out of these odd symbols. I filched a paper
from the corner store and stared at it for hours,
till the letters rose like flame from a struck
match. It was years before some kind adult
taught me the alphabet. Instead, my father
took the newspaper away and punished me
for stealing it. Later, every week, I’d borrow
ten books from the library. I couldn’t wait
to open them. But my mother thought
that children ought to play outside. I hid
out in the car like an assassin, sat silent
on the darkened cellar stairs, a stack
of books beside me, Prometheus, savoring
the danger, hoarding this stolen light.


Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies. She is a retired college educator and elected member of the Academy of American Poets. Her website is at

3 thoughts on “In the Beginning by Robbi Nester

  1. such a powerful story–and oh the satisfaction somehow of the girl who wanted the written word being celebrated in this beautifully worded poem

Leave a Reply