sad to say


Sadly, I still haven’t read a book – in two months. I went from a book a day to nothing, and it feels empty. I’ve had other priorities all summer, but now it’s time to get back into it. I fully expect the monthly Said and Read reading report to return at the end of September.

A former colleague and I have been talking about literacy and especially the world of encouraging children to read from an early age. Similar themes came up again recently when my brother came to visit and, improbably, credited me (at only 1.5 years his senior) as a major influence in his wanting to explore the world and learn. He felt that we didn’t have that kind of encouragement from our parents and thought that I had somehow spontaneously developed my own curiosity, reaching out into the wider world through music and global pen pals and learning other languages.

While it is true that I was “reading” from the time I could recognize signs and talk (this being more memory, recognition and making connections than actual reading), and was quite insistent on reading for myself, much of this was instilled by my grandmother – who constantly read and encouraged me to read. We don’t know as children what our voracious reading is doing, but it is fundamentally shaping how we approach the world – how we learn and consider almost everything, how we deploy our imaginations, how we interact with the world and the people in it, how we understand language… and much more. And this forged my curiosity and need to escape, to move beyond my personal limitations, fears and boundaries and to reach out into the world as much as my introverted nature (and the pre-internet world) would allow. Would this have been possible without this attachment to reading?

Anyway… I will be back with more book-related stuff. Meanwhile I got myself a new ergonomic kneeling chair (the first time I saw one like this was in my high school library – the librarian had one of these, and I have always wanted one. It only took me 20+ years to act on that want). Have a seat and accept my invitation to go back and read previous months’ “book reports”, if you’re curious:

2019May, April, March, February, January.

2018 – NovemberOctober, SeptemberAugust, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

sound before i saw


The Copper Beech
Marie Howe
Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.

One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.

Photo by SHAH Shah on Unsplash

cave lady


Self-Portrait as Cave Lady
Amy Gerstler
Nameless volcanos vomit rock.

Can’t keep cave clean. Swarms

of striped flies invade at dusk, bats

catch too few. Tender feeling for

baby mammoth as we eat him.

Sudden juice-leak from my eyes.

I pet baby mammoth’s roasted

hide, unfold hairy ear-flap still

stuck to skull and whisper into it.

Later, take chips of burnt sticks,

spit, plus mammoth fat, mix

in cup of hand and use paste I

make to sketch young mammoth

on shadow wall. Make black hand-

prints too. Rub mammoth fat

on my old, cracked feet. Rub some

on scars. Gather fresh dry leaves

for sleep. Give baby chunk of tusk

to suck so he’ll shut up. His yowls

rile wolves, who pace and whine

just beyond the all-night fires.

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

unfailing chronology


Reminds me a bit of the public artwork that used to stand outside the main courtyard of my high school. It was a free-standing threshold and door and was entitled “Door to Your Future” (or something like that). Of course the door was locked.

The Door
Kapka Kassabova
One day you’ll see:
you’ve been knocking on a door
without a house.
You’ve been waiting, shivering, yelling
words of daring and hope.

One day you’ll see:
there is no-one on the other side
except, as ever, the jubilant ocean
that won’t shatter ceramically like a dream
when you and I shatter.

But not yet. Now
you wait outside, watching
the blue arches of mornings
that will break
but are now perfect.

Underneath on tip-toe
pass the faces, speaking to you,
saying ‘you’, ‘you’, ‘you’,
smiling, waving, arriving
in unfailing chronology.

One day you’ll doubt your movements,
you will shudder
at the accuracy of your sudden age.
You will ache for slow beauty
to save you from your quick, quick life.

But not yet. Hope
fills the yawn of time.
Blue surrounds you. Now let’s say
you see a door and knock,
and wait for someone to hear.

wet kiss


Don’t Tell Anyone
Tony Hoagland
We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if I should consider myself

personally the cause of her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.
For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
as they go through life, silently,

politely keeping the big secret
that it is not all fun
to be ripped by the crooked beak

of something called psychology,
to be dipped down
again and again into time;

that the truest, most intimate
pleasure you can sometimes find
is the wet kiss

of your own pain.
There goes Kath, at one pm, to swim her twenty-two laps
back and forth in the community pool;

—what discipline she has!
Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
that will never be read by anyone.

Photo by Miguel Delmar on Unsplash



The Voyeur
Tom Leonard
what’s your favourite word dearie
is it wee
I hope it’s wee
wee’s such a nice wee word
like a wee hairy dog
with two wee eyes
such a nice wee word to play with dearie
you can say it quickly
with a wee smile
and a wee glance to the side
or you can say it slowly dearie
with your mouth a wee bit open
and a wee sigh dearie
A wee sigh
put your wee head on my shoulder dearie
oh my
a great wee word
and scottish
it makes me proud.