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To the Unreader

It is night – you’re alone. Find a library and don’t read. Cracks against the cold. The hourglass looks so full still. I know it’s you. I know your face in the dark. You fill out another form. You’re on hold, trying to answer questions you barely understand. Keep still.

Read the birds. The policeman’s eyes narrow when he meets your gaze. Read the gravel in the tracks. The bus driver asks to see your ticket. Read the asphalt cracks. The administrator denies your request. Except for the mirrors, the walls are white. Don’t love what you hate. They tell you to try harder. I won’t leave you.

The windows are sparkling from last night’s rain. A letter arrives. You move to the kettle. The pages wait in a sheaf. Have you said goodbye? You gather the crumbs of tea and let them rain into the waste bin. You will die in twelve days. Faces in the air like the peal of bells. Keep still, keep still. Deliberately, you avoid the hourglass. The soft sift of sand is so high the sound is invisible.

You’re going somewhere, or going nowhere. Winter numbs your hands. You leaf through thrillers, best-sellers, books about politics. A sticker says: love is love. Tinfoil gathers at the bus stop bench. A pigeon picks its way across your path. A church bell reminds you more time has passed. Look, I’ll build a space out of language. Now there’s a chair: sit down. Let cracks accumulate. Gold fills this hourglass. Take a ballpoint pen that you found, cracked, at the library.

Find a chapel and don’t pray. Find a garden and don’t tend it. Find a museum and dawdle. The intimacy of nightfall is ours. A ball of string of unknown length – only the knowledge that its length is finite. Keep still, keep still. I’ll light candles. You needn’t understand.

 Published in Dialogist 23 (June 2022)