From The Bookshop by Dick Allen

Υou enter in the evening, after walking down
Three steps to a miniature courtyard and a door tied open
With a piece of brown twine. The table lamps
Have tassled shades the color of scorched parchment,
Tiny pools of yellowed light beneath them,
So that looking across the room seems like looking
Across a small autumn garden. The proprietor,
Wire-rimmed glasses glinting, nods but doesn’t lift his head
From his reading and the rye bread sandwich
Into which he’s nibbled an almost total moon.
You browse, and while you do, your hands
Grow heavy and old, as if by taking close-packed books
From their shelves you are pulling bricks from a wall
Bound to collapse should you remove too many
And not replace them. What you’re searching for, among
These histories, these poems, these illuminated guides
To the soul, or the soul’s companions . . . these compendiums
Of fossils, stars, speeches, journeys when the world
Was a path through forest or waves against painted eyes
On the bow of a wooden ship plying the Aegean,
Is a single line of calm. This evening, you come close,
Closer than ever before, for it starts raining
Outside among the streetlights, and a tabby cat
Does figure eights around your ankles, the proprietor
Sighs deeply behind you. When you turn, he’s brushing
Specks of pale white brie and crumbs of bread
Carefully from the pages of his open manuscript
Into crumpled wax paper. Without a word
He takes the book you hand him, toting its price and tax / On the smudged back of an envelope, his stubby pencil
Writing small numbers. You pay him what he asks / And walk out into the rain………

Painting and reading

A few extracts from EDUCATED, an account of the struggle for preservation of personhood, attaining one’s dream for education, fierce family loyalty, control and the grief that comes of severing one’s closest of ties, by Tara Westover.

‘I believe finally that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing’ (John Dewey cited in Westover)

‘It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s. I have often wondered if the most powerful words I wrote that night came not from anger or rage, but from doubt……. Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs’.

‘I had been taught to read the words of men like Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself’.

“It has never occurred to you,” he said, “that you might have as much right to be here as anyone.”

‘Whom ever you become, whatever you make yourself into that is who you always were. It was always in you’.

‘… to take control of one’s own mind; to be liberated from irrational fears and beliefs, from addictions, superstitions and all other forms of self-coercion’

‘John Stuart Mill claimed that women have been coaxed, cajoled, shoved and squashed into a series of feminine contortions for so many centuries, that it is now quite impossible to define their natural abilities or aspirations. Blood rushed to my brain; I felt an animating surge of adrenaline, of possibility, of a frontier being pushed outward. Of the nature of women, nothing final can be known. Never had I found such comfort in a void, in the black absence of knowledge. It seemed to say: whatever you are, you are woman’.


‘We are the people of the second wind. We, who have been undermined, reduced, and minimized, we know who we are’ Eve Ensler

Today I am posting a few quotes by Eve Ensler from her book, In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection, a story of the body and the body of the world. Eve Ensler is a writer, performer and activist, who created V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. She has devoted her life to stopping violence. The V-Day movement has educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media, and campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Indian Country, and Iraq.

Stories entering me like emotional shrapnel lodging in my cells and gut. Stories that would eventually own and direct me. Stories that would never let go. And of course these stories would lead to other women, other countries, other stories, all of which would eventually lead to the ultimate story that was the Congo. It all began here in Bosnia with my friend Rada and the stories I needed to hear, although I am not sure what I was seeking. I needed to know what violence looked like. I needed to know how others survived. I needed to listen. But what I really needed was to know the world, the truth of the world. I needed to find the invisible underlying story that connected everything.

I don’t tell them they’re removing what seems like a tumor but is really a flesh monument inside me. Huge and round. A taut ball of cellular yarn spun out of the stories of women, made of tears, silent screams, rocking torsos, and the particular loneliness of violence. A flesh creature birthed out of the secrets of brutality, each blood vessel a ribbon of story. My body has been sculpting thistumor for years, molding the pieces of pain, the clay residue of memories. It is a huge work and it has taken everything.

Humans had become hole makers. Bullet holes and drilled holes, hurt holes, greed holes, rape holes. Holes in membranes that function to protect the surface or bodily organ. Holes in the ozone layer that prevent the sun’s ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth’s surface. Holes that cause mutation of bacteria and viruses and an increase in skin cancers. Holes, gaps in our memory from trauma. Holes that destroy the integrity, the possibility of wholeness, of fullness. A hole that would determine the rest of this woman’s life,

This was his deepest and most sustained legacy. I see how the division plays out everywhere, how this early destructive mutation of the family, just like that of a cancer cell, determines the psychic and social patterns of our existence. The world seems to be constructed on empires born of these mutations— of poor pitted against poor, ethnic group against ethnic group, elevating one group over another— a seduction that keeps the powerful in place.

The day before chemo, Lu surprises me with a wall-size photograph of Muhammad Ali, the moment after he knocks out George Foreman in Kinshasa. It’s one of those almost impossible photographs where time has stopped— Ali is standing, Foreman is on the ground. Ali has clearly won, but it’s not the glory that hits you, it’s the shock and the stagger of the struggle.