Slow Reader


He can make sculptures
and fabulous machines,
invent games, tell jokes,
give solemn, adult advice –
but he is slow to read.
When I take him on my knee
with his Ladybird book
he gazes into the air,
sighing and shaking his head
like an old man
who knows the mountains
are impassable.

He toys with words,
letting them go cold
as gristly meat,
until I relent
and let him wriggle free:
a fish returning
to its element,
or a white-eyed colt – shying
from the bit – who sees
that if he takes it
in his mouth
he’ll never run
quite free again.

That was one of the first poems I wrote when I was about thirty five and it was about my son. But I think it was as much about me being so slow beginning as a poet because I was as afraid of writing as he was of reading.

from Close Relatives (Secker & Warburg, 1981), copyright © Vicki Feaver 1981, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.

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