Silent Reading

In from play, he practices another breakthrough,

silent reading. His mouth moves to the

assistance of his eyes, and he thinks speaking,
nibbling at the dried milk of imagination
with his wobbly teeth. He’s puzzled
about which aspects of himself are durable,

he thinks he is his body, lithe and strong,
a little more proficient every day. No

inkling of the way things may develop

disturbs his quartered heart; his bones are flexible

and how they’ll harden isn’t his concern.

He reads
his story book as if it were a manual

for how to go on, calculating
ways to go from tales of silver ponies and gold

dragons reconciled by the end. He skips
the words he doesn’t really recognise, like

illness, poverty, defeat, disgrace, and pain,

he sounds them accurately and moves on

to things that have a meaning.

The world spins
down its atmosphere; none of the stars

is someone else’s sun; he gathers
that he owns a made-up world
inclusive of enchanted fortresses, bad
wolves and absent giants, castles, caves,

a treasure map of other people’s stories,


some making sense of some of it,
and some no sense at all.


Cumbria 1981

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