The Ladder

By Michael Chitwood

He worked for years on the tablet,
deciphering the pictographs. He knew
it was a kind of language, those images.
An eye. A bird, maybe a crow.

A basket of wheat. A ladder.
Did the order of the images matter?
He cross-referenced similar texts.
He studied the history of the region

and satisfied many hours in the tablet’s service.
In a cousin language, a ladder
was the word for happiness, to rise up,
to be lifted above the ordinary.

After years of work, he sorted it out.
It was poetry, bad poetry, adolescent.
It read: “Today, I am happy,
happy all this day, today.”

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/04/the-ladder/307999/