Harlan Bjornstad: “Perennial Selection”


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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