dash
 
History Books 

Two hand-me-down books from mother,
Little Women and Alice in Wonderland.
As the covers shed and the binding perished,
I read the remains, filling in the lost pages verbatim.
 
A friend lent me, Enid Blyton; but the Famous Five,
Malory Towers made me a castaway in my only childhood.
Christmas and Birthdays, relatives dismissed my appeals
for books, books, books with we donít know what youíve already read.
 
Inexplicably, no library membership. Perhaps a result
of Nana regarding borrowed books as riddled with germs,
so baked them in the oven until their covers browned like pastry,
before she and her girls were allowed to read.
 
But I discovered second-hand book stalls at fetes.
With cadged half-crowns I bought indiscriminately,
Lorna Doone to dog breeds. All stacked in the corner of
my bedroom like sandbags against a tide of holiday boredom.
 
And as my convent school prepared to mothball,
I would slip into the library with my school bag
stuffed with Dickens, Bronte, Hardy swag, that still
wink at me from my shelves when I scan for a book.
 
My tumbleweed twenties, I filled the days by chain reading.
Lord of the Rings sparked Gormenghast kindled Dracula.
Then the windfall of university at 32, spending all day
in bed all day with Mr Rochester, Heathcliff, Gatsby.
 
But teaching Streetcar for the tenth time, each lesson became
a stifled yawn and new texts, ones swerved at university, were a chore -
Some teachers managed to keep their appetites for reading keen
but my free time, I crashed out in front of trashy telly.
 
Retirement, I purged my bookcases of all textbooks.
Smiles at reacquainting with volumes like old friends lost touch with.
Treasure of unread novels, Alan Bennettís The Common Reader
getting me Freewheel-reading again, unfettered by lesson plans.
 
You arrive and we set about making this a place where you
could comfortably park your slippers.  But stalemate in
the sitting room. My books not regarded as dowry but dust traps,
shelved in Ikea efforts that held each other up like drunks.
 
Smarter cases consigned to the far reaches of the lounge.  
Mob visitors with minimalist rooms who shudder and think of Kindles.
But I would sooner sacrifice my hoard of shoes and handbags-
because each of these books has more than one story to tell.

Fiona Sinclair

 
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Fiona Sinclair would be pleased to hear them.


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