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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Thirteen Ways of Looking

Colum McCann


Among twenty snowy mountains, The only moving thing Was the eye of the blackbird.

The first is hidden high in a mahogany bookcase. It shows the full expanse of room where he lies sleeping on a queensize bed among a heap of pillows.

The headboard is intricately carved. The bedframe, sleigh-shaped. The duvet, Amish-patterned. An urn sits on the left bedside table, a stack of books on the right. An antique lantern clock with exposed weights and pulleys is hung on the wall near a long silver mirror, freckled and browned with age. Beneath the mirror, tucked in a corner, almost hidden from view, is a small oxygen tank.

Half a dozen pillows are placed in the armchair, away from the bed. Several cushions rest on an oak chair with leather arm­rests.

The writing table sits near the doorway, with a number of papers neatly towered, a silver letter opener, a seal embosser, an open laptop. There is a pipe on the desk but no tobacco box, matches, or ashtray.

The artwork is contemporary: three urban landscapes, sharp lines and blocks, and a small abstract seascape on the wall by the bathroom door.

Amid it all, he lies lumpen in the bed, a blanket-shape, his head little more than a blur.