there were so many books. she had to separate them to avoid being overwhelmed by the excessive implications of their words. she kept hundreds in a series of boxes inside a wire cage in a warehouse. and hundreds more on the shelves of her various rooms. when she changed houses she would pack some of the books into the boxes and exchange them for others that had been hibernating. these resurrected books were precious to her for a while. they had assumed the patinas of dusty chthonic wisdoms. and thus she would let them sit on the shelves admiring them from a distance. gathering time and air. she did not want to be intimate with their insides. the atmospherics suggested by the titles were enough. sometimes she would increase the psychic proximities between herself and the books and place a pile of them on the floor next to her bed. and quite possibly she absorbed their intentions while she slept.

if she intended travelling beyond a few hours she would occasionally remove a book from the shelves and place it in her bag. she carried ‘the poetics of space’ round india for three months and it returned to her shelves undamaged at the completion of the journey. every day of those three months she touched it and read some of the titles of its chapters to make sure it was there. and real. chapters called house and universe, nests, shells, intimate immensity, miniatures and, the significance of the hut. she had kept it in a pocket of her bag together with a coloured whistle and an acorn. she now kept this book in the darkness of her reference shelf. and she knew that one day she would have to admit to herself that this was the only book she had need of, that this was the book she would enter the pages of, that this was the book she was going to read


joanne burns (Sydney, Australia, 1945-)
“reading” text from blowing bubbles in the 7th lane: small stories, FAB Press, 1988; audio from kept busy, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2007: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 1981, 2007 by joanne burns.
Image cover: Naqsbandi Greenacre Engagement (detail: 3 channel video installation and mixed media) by Khaled Sabsabi (Tripoli, 1965; Tripoli/Sydney).
The artwork is at MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art) Sydney, purchased with funds of Coe and Mordant families (ph. Diana Marrone)

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