‘Listening to the cricket again?’ says the book. ‘I think I’ll join you.’
‘What do you mean, ‘again’?’ I say.
‘Don’t lie to me. I know what you get up to when I’m not around.’
‘I am a paragon of discipline!’ I say. ‘Except when I’m not of course. I think you know that, too.’
‘What’s the score?’
‘Not sure. Aggers is arguing with Boycott again. About something from 1978. It’s worse than modern poetry sometimes. You have to tune into the discourse. Almost a separate language, as Kenneth Koch used to say.’
‘Yes, and Root, I think. They’ll be fine.’
‘I don’t think you’re distracted, I think you’re exhausted.’
‘You think so?’
‘I know so. It’s obvious. The endless scrolling. The inability to sleep. The news addiction. It’s obvious.’
‘To be fair there has been quite a lot of news…’
‘What was it Pound said? Nothing is more out of date than the news.’
‘And your point is?’
‘Tomorrow it will be gone. Not the news per se, of course, but the itch of the issue or headline that made you lose ten minutes today while you were trying to be productive. That won’t be here. But you will be. You, with your breath, your uniqueness, your perspective and joy, which may never come again. Listen to that, not the news.’
‘Have you been on a counselling course?’
‘There’s a lot I get up to in my spare time. I’ve started learning Spanish.’
‘Do you think you could teach me some?’
‘There you go again!’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Distraction. Just because I am working on my Spanish does not mean you need to do the same. Or ditto everyone else feeding off the corpse of the neoliberal dream. Or tweeting how humbled they are to get a mention in Fabulous Poetry Now!‘
‘I would love to get Fabulous Poetry Now!‘ I say.
‘Of course you would,’ the book says. ‘But it isn’t the main thing. The main thing is getting out of the way, getting out of your way, long enough to get some actual work done.’
‘But I feel so useless,’ I say.
‘Procrastination will do that to you,’ the book says. ‘Not to mention distraction.’
‘I thought you were supposed to be on my side.’
‘I am on your side,’ the book says. The book places its hand on my arm. ‘Start with something small. See if you can get to the end of the afternoon without looking at Facebook. Or if the first thing you reach for in the morning isn’t your stats or your phone. Just give it a try. And remember to breathe.’
‘Have you been reading Anne Lamott?’ I say.
‘Always,’ the book says.