Reader's Block


By Sarah J. Sloat

Borges sprawls spread-eagled in bed
beside me, his expert tricks and spirits spent.
Not his fault my lungs shudder to suppress a yawn.

Indulging disbelief, I consider heaping him
atop the likewise dread-ended:

Tess atop Disraeli,
atop Colette, Queequeg
and Jean Valjean.

Having trawled each sentence twice
I stall in the margin, then grow engrossed in dust
motes that wobble novel paths past the window,

where clouds morph into dialogue balloons,
inscrutable as runes. By chapter’s end

my mind has been taken to the laundry,
which takes place in Chinese, or a restroom

to watch reams of white paper flow blankly by
without a discernible seam.

O epic disengagement, harsh and deep!

Stop dismantling the characters.
Stop abridging the English landscapes
and nitpicking the Nibelungen.

Stop returning me to my own unplotted pages,
scenes left yet unpenned, the only tome
I can’t toss aside unfinished

that won’t let me skip the weak parts,
that won’t let me first read the end.


Sarah J. Sloat lives in Frankfurt, Germany, a stone’s throw from Schopenhauer’s grave. Her poems and prose have appeared in Passages North, Whiskey Island and RHINO. Sarah’s chapbook of poems on typefaces and texts, Inksuite, is available from Dancing Girl Press, which will also publish Heiress to a Small Ruin in 2015.