the thing with reading books aloud is–

there’s a corner in the night
just a hint of white from the apple of her eyes
behind mascara lashes

i sit on the couch
my husband’s breath the constant rhythm of a sea
within him/ onyx barges /gondolas,
the book, sunk deep into my lap
(as if it lives there) starts with Sartre,

he fell asleep on page 8
maybe earlier, my voice drifting like feathers in the breeze
locked already
in the city’s spell, her scents
and shades
“white” he writes about the walls
“with black tears”

when my daughter was a child
she used to chase me, book in hand
“mom, can you read to me–”
&happily i opened all those secret doors
black bright enamel
our fingerprints marshmallow-sticky
on the page’s white// like snowslush

quivering, i’m washed ashore
with every movement of her waterways
find pieces of me, half-forgotten
&she gives them back
by eating me, with eager blackness

my husband’s breath goes steady
stretching wide into tiny alleys

“find a bar” the author writes
“and still under the doorframe place your order– cross the room
&–” she’s awake with you
in every silent corner

black like insects,
just a hint of white
behind mascara-heavy eyes
i marvel

at her colors



for Grace’s black/white prompt at dVerse


36 responses to “the thing with reading books aloud is–

  1. I like how you wrap back to the lady. I was thinking at first that she was you but, I like how you can appreciate her colors. I was working with a boy the other day that is 14 and reads on a first grade level. When I asked him if someone read to him, he said sometimes – which really meant rarely if ever. It broke my heart when he told me the only book he ever had and all. Because it is the only one he could ever read to himself. And all he is missing for the inability to read.

  2. my kids and I went to Hogwards, Middle Earth, and listened to Dumas tell us his stories. This poem reminds me of those adventures

  3. I like so much the thought of reading aloud… I remember we used to do that a while when I was a kid, old enough to read myself but sitting with the family sounds like heaven. But I also fall asleep easily if I sit and listen. The image of the mascara lady is like an eavesdropping frame to your story.

  4. I like how you use details in this poem, Claudia — how you mention a number of things twice for effect (husband’s breath, the black of insects, mascara lashes) which give the poem a unity. Cool that your daughter used to chase you with book in hand! Those moments one never wants to pass up on, no matter how busy. To be able to encourage a child’s love of reading is a very special thing.

  5. The gift of reading is one of the best to give and/or be given. I think in the end it does not really matter what people read as long as they get something out of it. Once again you conjured up a lovely and simple family scene while allowing us to see its many layers.

  6. I would fall asleep on the book if the voice feel like feathers in the breeze, smiles ~

    I appreciate the details of black and white, insect black, mascara, snowlush ~

    I too marvel at your colorful words ~

  7. O night, with steady breath of sleeper and book and vocal tones and memories, rarely have you been so honored in poetry. Lovely love poem.

  8. Loved all association while you read book too ‘find pieces of me, half-forgotten’ reading the children books, esp. ..but how it different now…they say: you find in the book,every time you read it, your present reflection….

  9. Wonderful write with memories I so relate to. I loved reading to my children and never got tired of it. Such a wonderful connection is made. Timeless.

  10. dang, I agree, “this one is a stunner”, rocking the bejesus out of the prompt,but also never abandoning the fascinating realm of Yourself; where you paint the mundane, the often overlooked with rainbow sensual saturations. We read to our three daughters, & now it’s to our grandchildren. I would submit that most poetry should be read aloud as well. I like your lines /”white” he writes about the walls
    /”with black tears”/.

  11. “he fell asleep on page 8 / maybe earlier,” That would be my husband if I read aloud to him. 🙂 I love the image of your daughter chasing you down to read her a book. I miss reading to my son like I did when he was young. Peace, Linda

  12. Love this. Mascara is the perfect, perfect visual for this prompt. Wishing I’d thought of it. Love the voice of reading out loud, and the added layer of black and white that folds into it all.

  13. Reading aloud would be good training in self confidence. It would exude such feel better more so when one was bathed with colors like the lady! wonderful write Claudia!


  14. Wonderful use of black and white in the images you present for our delight, and yet there are so many hints of color hidden in there. I love the description of your husband falling asleep–as only the male of the species seems to be able to do.

  15. Oh, i really like this one, claudia! the black & white text of books opens up a world of color to us…one we can share with our children. my husband also falls asleep when i read to him…i like to think my voice is soothing, not boring 😉

  16. I must admit, the first line put me in mind of the series, Penny Dreadful. but that was the only line. How wonderful this black and white painting of yours is. You have hung it for us all to see the rich, wonderful, mundane details. And your daughter chased you to read to her! I read all the poems here on dVerse aloud. We often read aloud as a family group when I was growing up. I can still hear my grandmother reading to us about Peter Rabbit and remembering how adults and children alike enjoyed and appreciated.

  17. How lovely—all the things you do to her back in time of yore, & the way you give your appreciation today to the lady who share the same face of yours. Claudia, as always, your creative telling is completely fascinating & engaging. Thanks for the poem!

  18. The lady is the book, right, black and white, yet allowing us to marvel at all her colours? A cosy if wry family portrait there – I do miss reading aloud to my children, always loved it (marshmallow stickiness aside). As for reading aloud to my husband… only newspaper articles, where he doesn’t quite have time to fall asleep, otherwise I imagine the experience might be very similar…

  19. Ah.. the breath of light of the kitty kat..
    is the sweet voiced mother
    of human being..
    with sing song voice..
    bringing purr of delight..
    Oh.. so sad.. of children
    with eyes so
    cold in text
    of screens..
    of cats
    feel love in
    melodious voice..
    but a child of human

    I only use unhappy
    faces.. in case
    of EMERGencies..
    and yes.. TH..IS

  20. Your poem evoked so many memories of me falling asleep with a book in my hands. I love the stage where I am drifting into sleep but I am not totally asleep and the book’s contents are still swarming around in my head. The subconscious mind is a powerful tool for unlocking one’s imagination.

    Greetings from London.

  21. You’re not a poet, dear, you are more than a poet, you are a driver. A driver-poet, if you like. 🙂 You bring your passengers on board and take them for a ride in your world. Loved this poem. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.