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The Reading

Early mornings, long mornings of low heart rate,
softened shoulders, strong supermarket tea,
the sofa. Days of pages and page silence.
Months mingled with traffic and talk from the street
through the opened window as you read.
As you read you notice the fig plant,
parts of it dying, parts of it flourishing
exponentially—you've read that word recently.
The reading is teaching you to leave such things
alone, to keep the TV off, forgo
the internet searches for property;
interest rates, share prices will still be in flux
when you return after reading. Reading
so long that the light has changed, that it's time
to put on the lamps so you can read some more
about the family trying to get work
in nineteenth-century California
as fruit pickers. Reading, remembering
you've forgotten to eat. Reading on and freed
from the millstone of your own ego—phew.
Reading when you're not reading: reading the sky
on a Sunday at half-seven in August
when someone you love is making you dinner
and you're late. Reading a kiss, reading a body
in the summer in the morning
before you start reading about the boys who've escaped
on horseback and are heading south, Mexico way.
Reading the next line before you've finished
the one you're on. Reading the last
line by accident and spoiling it for yourself.
Reading that bit all over again and again.
On a nudist beach in a foreign country,
reading, despite the fascinating array
of genitalia parading up
and down the tide line; reading instead
a scene in which a woman who has nothing,
not even her stillborn child, gives suck
to a septuagenarian who hasn't eaten
for so long he's skin and bone. Indoors,
reading, on the hottest day of the year, trying
to read all the reading you can humanly read
in the life you have left to read it in.

Andrew Jamison

The Gallery Press

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