Marie Howe

The Girl at 3

The girl is in love with the letter M.
M, she says quietly to herself – smiling at the thought of it.
M, she says out loud.

(The book I’m reading says that’s what we have to do,
within ourselves, to learn to read – creates a self,
but when we’ve created that self we’ve created an edge
that separates us from the world we long for
: the interiority we create by reading is rich and lonely.)

In the paintings of the Annunciation
Mary has looked up from her book to listen to the angel.

In some her finger keeps her place, as if she would
return to where she was, or to who she was after listening
(But she will not return)

Where is that angel? In the room?
Within the room her reading has made within her?

It’s a European invention – the book, the girl, the curtained bed.
Mary couldn’t read, and so – according to the book I’m reading
– didn’t have a self,
not as we know it.

She held these things in her heart.

M! the girl says when she sees the letter on her letter board,
although it is in fact an N.

M! she shouts in the way she shouts Home!
when we arrive there.