Friday, August 3, 2007

At an antiques fair

Like pleading puppies in the pound,
They stare up at me, big-eyed.
The stallholder turns another page
And crunches an apple.
I stoop down and scoop one
From the brown and battered box.
“The Life of Fridtjof Nansen by J. Arthur Bain”
I read,
Etched in gold print on the rubbed navy spine,
Above a silver print of Fram,
Nudging through Arctic ice floes.
“E.G. Lyttle, 66, Manor Street”
Written proudly in Edwardian handwriting
On the frontispiece.
An age when daring feats of bravery
Still inspired enraptured boys.
Nansen, Bain and Lyttle,
All gone, all but forgotten,
Joined after death by a scrawled fly-leaf.
The bond will break when,
Dumped in a skip.
The broken spine and moulding leaves
“With numerous illustrations and a map”
End their days in landfill.
Would that I owned a bare-shelved carved bookcase
In a Georgian drawing room
Where I could stack authors, subjects and readers
And let them converse forever
In erudite surroundings.
But this is a practical age.
I lay the book down atop the others,
Silently bidding them all a good home.

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