By: Stephen Kingsnorth
I carried a Pisa pile
towards the door desk, greyish tinge.
The bright street frontage, poster glow
felt-tip scrawl announced, not Alexandria,
but fire damaged stock for sale.
High School me, taken self to town,
found this people-free paradise;
miser pocket-money in pig-skin purse
and upstairs warehouse, rickets stairs.
Cubic capacity, volume of books,
as if building razed, scarred library,
leaving untidy, uneven
brick foundation course which might
totter, crumble, bravely stand,
though interleaved mortar might fall about.
Column or torus, cheapest heaps,
towers, footstools, pilae stacks,
with floor before another plinth,
classic publishers fading pink,
a hypocaust for everyman,
Dutton, Dent and Routledge,
English bricks in global walls.
Picking through rough rubble site,
bombsite pages still bound, intact,
I sifted authors, faint pencil fly
just a tanner, though ‘just’ is mine.
Juvenile choices from printer’s block tray,
lines with words, incunabulae
of literature, devoured by hungry,
on every page of history,
appetite never satisfied.
Short boy, still teen, conservative in style,
probably in jacket, tie,
like tight-rope walker
stretched balance reaching towards cash register.
I waited while she totted total shillings spent.
Seeing selection for my shelves,
she posed was I a teaching man?
Now feel six feet tall
I chuckled, denied,
but volumes carried, swelled with pride,
a glow recalling embers laid
around these for basement prices paid.
If she could read those light lead-marks,
eye-sight good in that dinge site,
more confident my bus stop stride.
Though fifty on, two yards from here,
those tomes look grand; some still unread.