The Young Man who Looked at a little Bird under a Glass Tree for a Really long Time…

Little bird.jpg

He came into the shop with a friend, but the friend abandoned him: she had books to find and a list in her hand.

He stood still at first and kept his hood on and his hands in his pockets and prepared to wait. But he looked at everything. And for so long and so carefully. Sometimes he bent forward, eyeing the spines and the titles, reading everything he could without picking them up. Then he looked at the shelves, from top to bottom, he leaned in and looked upward at the small roof of each cabinet. Once he put his face close to Pinocchio, seemingly intrigued with it, all by itself on one shelf. He stared at a cover of The Worst Band in the Universe for a long time.

I thought that I have never seen so close an examination of volumes and displays and walls in here, never such an intense scrutiny of covers and pictures and for such a long time.

He stopped at a little stone bird. It sits under an absurd small tree made of wire and glass and which hosts a poem called The Dipper.

The poem is printed out and lays underneath the tree and next to the bird and the blue and green and gold glass beads settle around them and it all goes unnoticed by everyone except small children who often ask: is it real. And I say that it is not real and they stand back, unimpressed by a tree that is not real.

This man leaned in and read the poem. He leaned over it for so long I though he must have read it eleven times. Then he examined the tree, the hanging glass drops that weep evenly around the poem and sometimes drop their beads or the gold leaves on the floor for no reason at all. He leaned over the rock, a real one, it embraces the base of the tree, holding still a nearly invisible idea.

He didn’t say anything, his attention was the song.

Then his friend returned with her book, The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, and said: ok, I’m done.

He straightened up and they left and that was that.


The Dipper

It was winter, near freezing.

I’d walked through a forest of firs

when I saw issue out of the waterfall

a solitary bird.


It lit on a damp rock,

and, as water swept stupidly on,

wrung from its own throat

supple undammable song.


It isn’t mine to give

I can’t coax this bird to my hand

That knows the depth of the river

yet sings of it on land.


Kathleen Jamie




Linda and Monique

Charlie Devoli 2

Linda and Monique are mother and child. Today they are here at the shop, it is so cold, it is grey and dark but inside is warm and the coloured lights are at their best. Linda sits and reads, she is a still pool, just sitting and reading.

Monique, though, moves from shelf to shelf, from book to book, she examines pages and covers and the last page of everything. She is wearing thongs, not feeling the cold, she circles the table with the blue lights around the lantern and she gently touches this string of sapphire light. Then she puts the Redwall volumes back in order. Now she has The Clockwork Prince and she reads standing up. Linda reads on.

Other customers move quietly around them, the mother, a still pool, but busy, I don’t know what she is reading. The daughter darting again from treasure to treasure, examining the top shelves, the bottom stacks, the fallen books, the crooked books and ones that have ended up under the table. She reads the picture books, carefully and thoughtfully. Linda reads on, a still pool.

Monique reads standing on one foot, her head bent slightly to one side, a smaller pool, but already becoming a bigger one. Now she sits cross legged amongst science fiction and is she looking at Ursula Le Guin.

Linda reads on, a still pool.

Photography by Charlie Devoli