On a Coetzee Reading Group

Richard insists, “Nothing is something,”
when our group of readers plumb the depths of Disgrace
and winter relents on a March evening.

Thirteen discuss tense: burnt, burned, burning —
dogs who smell our thoughts, read our face —
is there redemption if, in fact, “Nothing is something”?

Can reading a book be a form of suffering,
incinerating unwanted dogs the reader’s penance
when winter relents at last on a March evening?

Are we off the moral hook by believing
our own sympathies when it comes to rape and race
and cling to a dream that even “Nothing is something”?

We read the harder it gets the easier it is becoming
for Coetzee’s man who has lost job, lover, daughter, grace.
When winter relents on a March evening,

we argue over the last companion, the damaged dog singing
to a banjo, given up for embrace, then sacrifice.
Richard insists “nothing is something”
when winter relents at last on a March evening.

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