Learning to read


I read everything,

everything I can.


Not just words,

books, texts etc.


But all of the things

of the world.


When you learn to read

you learn to read first the lines,

then between the lines


and sometimes beyond the lines.


I think this applies

to reading the world also.


Right now I am reading

the sound of a siren

wailing across the city.


I know it means trouble,

tension, terror, even.


I know it means sickness,

pain, crime, accident,

bringers of grief and death.


Today I am OK,

the day is steady.

I know that one day

that siren may wail for me.


But for now,

on this sunny autumn morning,

I am reading the leaves

that wave in a breezy sunlight,


reading the ripening apples

on my neighbour’s tree

where a glossy blackbird has come to perch,


reading the easing

of the pain in my back


and reading my own breathing

which keeps me reading, for now,  


the endless text of the world.    


Note   In British primary schools in the 1980's there was a popular formula for the teaching of reading as a progressive process. The first step of learning to read was called 'reading the lines'. This meant the literal decoding of text to speech, the being able to say out loud what the print stated, what it semantically 'told' one at the most literal level. The next stage was 'reading between the lines'. This was the more sophisticated ability to gather implications that the text might hold in view of what was being stated (in a sense, reading what the text 'meant' rather than what it simply 'said' ..... plenty of room to quibble about this one, of course). The third stage was the further one in which the reader might move on from the text itself to contemplate the issues it raised. At this stage one had left the ground of the text to take flight into the air of ideas it might have conjured. So we were now in a place of rumination, speculation, philosophy or whatever category of thinking that might have been triggered by the reading of the text.


You don't need to know any of this to read my poem 'Learning to read'. But knowing about the background to the concepts of reading the lines, between the lines and beyond the lines may enhance the poem a little. I'm not sure. But no harm in adding a note like this which you can ignore or discard if you wish.