What I’m saying is, a reader must have talent. Quite a lot of talent, actually, because even the most talented reader will find much of the land of literature tricky terrain. For how many of us feel the world to be as Kafka felt it, too impossibly foreshortened to ride from one village to the next? Or can imagine a world without nouns, as Borges did? How many are willing to be as emotionally generous as Dickens, or to take religious faith as seriously as did Graham Greene? Who among us have Zora Neale Hurston’s capacity for joy or Douglas Coupland’s strong stomach for the future? Who has the delicacy to tease out Flaubert’s faintest nuance, or the patience and the will to follow David Foster Wallace down his intricate recursive spirals of thought? The skills that it takes to write it are required to read it. Readers fail writers just as often as writers fail readers. Readers fail when they allow themselves to believe the old mantra that fiction is the thing you relate to and writers the amenable people you seek out when you want to have your own version of the world confirmed and reinforced. That is certainly one of the many things fiction can do, but it’s a conjurer’s trick within a far deeper magic. To become better readers and writers we have to ask of each other a little bit more.
They are standing close to each other in the dark,
near to where the old fashioned roses are, and dusk
is beginning to settle over their relationship.
Someone, perhaps it was the gardener,
has gone over the grass with a scythe and the scent
of fresh cut grass hangs in the air, the grass
slowly going yellow. She is wildly wiping
the tears from her eyes, holding, in one hand, something
gone limp. Of course what she is holding is some part of herself –
some part of how she sees herself. His hands
are in his pockets, he paces back and forth,
moving between her and the other woman waiting, breathless,
on the verandah. The more she reaches for him, the more self
assured he becomes. I want to reach over and whisper
to this woman: Let him go! Let him go! You cannot force
a body to stay. I want to tell this woman, and the woman
in the hazy distance, both women that I have been,
that in the meantime life goes on. In the meantime
the clean blue air forces itself under the door at dusk
and crawls up and over the window at dawn.
Birds are, again, heading south, and the apple tree, in the orchard,
has showered white blossoms, which will harden
and darken into fruit. Was it only last night that I watched,
amazed, as my two black cats, began, again, to sniff
each other? I want to tell this woman, now alone, head bent,
that the heart that is broken can be mended:
when it heals, it yields a field of purple-blue flowers.
- Jacqueline Bishop,
The body craves water.
clear to fathoms.
The white boat a gull flying on the surface.
I am haunted by you here,
where the North Sea roars black and cold.
Still it is the mother of you,
child-ocean dressed in your play-clothes,
emerald, turquoise, sea-blue,
harborer of dolphins, mermaids,
and my tiny water-baby self flying,
swimming, forever dreaming.