library book sale

At first glance, the used-book sale

is a swathe of hope, all those

rumoured-to-be-lost words

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.