At first glance, the used-book sale
is a swathe of hope, all those
laid out in their innate fluorescence,
basking in the eyes of strangers
longing for a find. Tables marked
Fiction, Sports, Celebrities, easy trips,
as if the literate life was a board game,
every square with its own story.
No meaninglessness, no missing
tongues. Silence hasn’t even been
invented here. Each new sentence
and the flat earth flips, discovery
a labyrinth of ink-sweet tunnels.
But draw closer, aren’t the paperback
romances sweating the same nectar,
heaving paragraphs into swollen
pages, popping happiness like buttons?
And the thrillers, with their chilled
psychopaths and gullible glamour girls,
the same old blueprint God was writing
when he plucked Eve from a broken rib.
The Self-Help sign promises a kit
and a tiny tube of glue. How to lose
50 pounds in 20 minutes, how to get
a head, how to sink an ark, suck a million,
shine the show, rid the world of pestilence
and regrets. The tables are buckling
under the weight of so many lies.
Where should I leave this poem
once it’s finished? I can’t find Poetry,
and although the Literature section
certainly has room, it feels presumptuous.
And I’ve already missed most of my life
in Miscellaneous. Maybe Mystery: slip
this page under a magnifying glass
and see which words best earn their distortions.
Fact is I’ve wanted to be a book
ever since the scribbles started making sense.
What an honour to pursue, squeeze
your flesh thin and clean as paper,
tell the truth as only you can do.
Not this propaganda of words being
bought and sold, the story told
exactly the same for everyone.