Residing now, as I do,

In the temporal mid-latitudes—

Some forty-seven degrees and leaning

Ineluctably toward a grayer North—

I find myself, in my reading,

More and more inclining

Toward the pleasures of return:

Toward attention to what previously

Had escaped me (the hero’s briefcase

Set down at the platform’s edge),

Toward affectionate annotation,

Toward that earnest daily conversation

With select authorial minds

That is the supreme privilege

Of the committed reader’s reading life.


So away with the bright anthologies of youth!

Give me Walden, Life of Johnson,

Shakespeare’s sonnets, The Gospel of Luke,

Then give them to me again.


Just outside my study window

The chickadees brave the neighborhood hawk

To alight at the feeder near the birch.

Black-and-white, flickering sociably

Through successive page-turns

As the sand in my hourglass sifts down,

They busy themselves in sorting

The sunflower seed that is their passion

From the remainder that is not.


If summer’s fiercest flower invests

The full, studded disc of its life

In creatures so small, so deniable,

Surely these hours of study can nourish me,

Surely reading itself (the art)

Flourishes the more, the more

The light diminishes.


Harlan Bjornstad is the playwright and producer of three plays and is presently working on a novel about growing up in a missionary family in Kodaikanal, South India. He has published recent poetry in Southern Review.

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