Have you ever sat in a public library and, looking out of the window, seen the branches of trees and, at the same time, the reflection on the glass of bookshelves and spinners so, as it gets darker …
… the library leaps outside and the books are shelved along the branches of the trees and the tables and the ceiling and your own face are grown through with leaves and branches? And then it’s proper dark and outside has been abolished and only the bright library remains on the glass, and you’re reading this. It’s dark outside, but if I went outside, it wouldn’t be so dark. I am not a public library, nor do I live in one, but you’re reading me while I do this instead. Sometimes I think my laptop is a window and I sit outside it in the dark, looking into the light. I wonder if you can see me out here? If you can, you’ll know I’m doing this instead of what I should be doing.
Isn’t there something you should be doing, too? Maybe we’re all sitting outside our own windows. I like chimneys; specifically, flues. Wouldn’t it be great to read something that went through the page or through the screen the way a flue went through a house? A carbonised tunnel, like a section of sparkling innard, climbing towards an opening into the very night, and we go about our business – wedging the back door with the sausage-dog, reading this, doing that instead – without giving it a thought. And the smoke! As I watch logs burn down in the hearth, I think about the smoke, how it billows and rolls, but all that billowing and rolling is enclosed, filling the corners and angles of the flue even as the column of smoke is made cornered and angular. Maybe it’s not that it would be great to read something that went through the page or through the screen the way a flue went through a house, but that it would be great to read something that went through the page or through the screen the way smoke went through a flue. I hope you’re not reading this. If you are, you’ve read it and I’m doing something else instead.
Don’t read this. I’m supposed to be writing a piece for this blog about my new book of poems, but I’m doing this instead. Don’t you do this? It’s dark outside, the leaves are yellowing, the sausage-dog draft excluder is wedged against the back door, and you’re reading this while I do something else, though I don’t know what it is yet.
Originally published on the Picador blog