The matchbox cars

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Matchbox cars are always good. These are old, some sand from a sandpit in the seventies fell out all over the carpet. Digger, trucks, tractors, trailer, the trailer with a sharp edge.

Pa says, watch that trailer, it has a sharp edge. But Max has already assessed the trailer rubbed his thumb across the razy edge of its spine, noted it with interest.

Should file that off! (But doesn’t.) As it’s not been done for three generations.

Max adds noise to the vehicles, amazing that he knows so much engine talk!

Pa dozes next to the car park, the toys were all his, then our kids, now the grandkids. Must be the same play in a different decade, on a chilly evening, Pa snoozing and Nan reading and the dinner not even ready yet.

Peace Piece

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This man often comes to the shop. He always pauses, notices whatever music is playing. This afternoon he came in out of the rain quietly and noticed the music as usual. He raised one hand, reached towards it, nodded, didn’t say anything.

Then he went to look at books. I don’t remember what he chose, only that he liked the music. He lined his books up, stacked them without looking, said, yes, this is good. I don’t know if he meant his reading or the music or the rain; many people were delighted with the rain. He left, vaguely conducting something, not fast, just in agreement.

Artwork: All That Jazz by M. Sani

 

 

Thank you Pablo Neruda

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Ode to The Cat

The animals were imperfect,
long-tailed,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
The cat,
only the cat
appeared complete and proud:
he was born completely finished,
walking alone and knowing what he wanted.

Man wants to be fish or fowl,
the snake would like to have wings
the dog is a disoriented lion,
the engineer would like to be a poet,
the fly studies to be a swift,
the poet tries to imitate the fly,
but the cat
only wants to be a cat
and any cat is a cat
from his whiskers to his tail,
from his hopeful vision of a rat
to the real thing,
from the night to his golden eyes.

There is no unity
like him,
the moon and the flower
do not have such context:
he is just one thing
like the sun or the topaz,
and the elastic line of his contours
is firm and subtle like
the line of a ship’s prow.
His yellow eyes
have just one
groove
to coin the gold of night time.

Oh little
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
you claim
when you pass
and place
four delicate feet
on the ground,
smelling,
distrusting
all that is terrestrial,
because everything
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.

Oh independent wild beast
of the house
arrogant
vestige of the night,
lazy, gymnastic
and alien,
very deep cat,
secret policeman
of bedrooms,
insignia
of a
disappeared velvet,
surely there is no
enigma
in your manner,
perhaps you are not a mystery,
everyone knows of you
and you belong
to the least mysterious inhabitant,
perhaps everyone believes it,
everyone believes himself the owner,
proprietor,
uncle
of a cat,
companion,
colleague,
disciple
or friend
of his cat.

Not me.
I do not subscribe.
I do not know the cat.
I know it all, life and its archipelago,
the sea and the incalculable city,
botany,
the gyneceum and its frenzies,
the plus and the minus of mathematics,
the volcanic frauds of the world,
the unreal shell of the crocodile,
the unknown kindness of the fireman,
the blue atavism of the priest,
but I cannot decipher a cat.
My reason slips on his indifference,
his eyes have golden numbers.

Pablo Neruda, 1959

That’s just beaut!

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A customer ordered The Cathedral Builders by Jean Gimpel. This is because he had read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and needed to know more. As much as possible. He told me about stone and stone blocks and builders and tools, the designing and carving and balancing and how they knew what to do with light, and about carving; that was just magic!

I said I’d try to find one. He said, that was beaut, that with the internet and everything it was marvelous what books you could find these days. He couldn’t wait to get it, he’d read about it, how it was the best one to explain how cathedrals were built. He asked me to please post it to Cummins, that he was going home to his farm and had a lot of stone breaking to do. That anyone who said there was no stone in the ground at Cummins was wrong, it was everywhere. He had some long days ahead of him, probably wouldn’t be off the tractor until 8pm for a while but that still left a bit of daylight for reading about cathedrals.

Marble carving by Mathew Simmonds

“I ransack public libraries and find them full of sunk treasure.”

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Virginia Woolf wrote this thought about sunk treasure in one of her diaries. I still get requests for Virginia Woolf at the shop. Usually by students. Once a very young reader piled up everything in classics with To the Lighthouse on the top. She had not read Virginia Woolf (yet). She also had Dracula, Frankenstein, Ethan Frome, Sweet Thursday, Treasure Island, The Chrysalids and The Silmarillion. Then her mum came in and said it was too many to carry. She had to put at least half back, which she slowly did, but she kept the Virginia Woolf. I hope she enjoys it.

 

Dictionaries of Light

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The sun the sun

comes round the corner

like a shining knight of old

galloping over the landscape

on the horses of morning

And shaking his lance over us

in trance of night

awakens us to speak or sing

to banish death and darkness

And each steed a word

each verb a stallion

reared up against all ignorance

Untamed rampant radicals

in dictionaries of light

Dictionaries of Light by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I want to read this book

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Michael came into the shop with a gift for me, a copy of The White Nile by Alan Moorehead, hardbound and heavy, magnificent.

He said, you’ll like this, you know. And I could tell you some things about Alan Moorehead! Whenever Michael refers to a book or an author, he bows, an acknowledgement of his gratitude to them. Sometimes his voice trembles. He will hold a book as he talks about it, leaning over it, turning it, regarding it as though astounded that somehow, it found its way to him!

This always makes me want to read what he is telling me about.

He is on his way to the bakery this morning, to read his current joy, Torill Kornfeldt. I have seen him in there at the side counter, sitting electrified, his cup of tea gone cold.

Hand holding a book by Adolph von Menzel

 

 

 

Where the sidewalk ends

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There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins,

And there the grass grows soft and white,

And there the sun burns crimson bright,

And there the moon-bird rests from his flight

To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black

And the dark street winds and bends.

Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow

We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go

To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know

The place where the sidewalk ends.

Shel Silverstein

The weather

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This morning is sunny again, there was not so much rain after all. A knot of three good friends stand up against the shop window to discuss the problem of rain. Because it won’t come.

The rain, it’s shy this year.

It is, Mavis, why don’t you get out there, get it organised.

I’ve got a garden show this morning, after that, it can come, blast it. Needs to wait off till two. Then I’ll allow it.

Well, well then, hope it obliges. You’re a card! That’s what I say!

You don’t anything, Hank!

Then they all shrieked with laughter, picked up their bags and stepped carefully onward to the next part of their day: the information centre, Woolworths, an autumn garden show.