Bookshops donate blood

I was born with a bookshop in my mouth

I’m not sure when I swallowed it.

Dell classics, ‘Sixty-four pagers’ and comics 

softened me up,

like butter and caster sugar 

in a mixing bowl.

I’m not sure how books imprinted on my double helix 

and passed from puberty 

to pulsating subjects of desire,

while I combed curly hair 

with Brylcream 

like my father

– like my book-selling father.

He’d grown up above the shop 

owned shelves, 


and cash-registers.

“So long as you don’t bend back spines,

leave fingerprints, 

crease leaves, 

so we can sell each book as new,

I bid you read all you fancy.”

 A feast fit for a glutton

– I’m sure I read a book.

I certainly climbed trees, 

collected swords,

cut and sharpened spears, 

bent and strung bows

fixed berberis thorns 

fired arrows 

hurled clumps of earth,

released poison mushrooms, 

and built a war-room 

hidden in the bushes. 

– I’m sure I read a book.

I listened to ball-by-ball cricket, 

the Clitheroe Kid,

the Top Twenty

caddied for Dad,

cut grass for pocket money.

collected “Forty-Fives”

– I’m sure I read a book.

Drewled over particular photographs in National Geographics,

undistracted by text

vexed by interruptions.

– I hardly read a book until I left home.

Walking  down Dublin’s Dawson Street,

crossing Charing Cross Road, 

hurrying through Hay-on-Wye

or window-shopping streets 

of any self-respecting Quarter 

is a pain

is a pest

is a penence.

Bookshops slow me down, 

make me late

empty my pockets. 

Bookshops kidnap me

compel me to suffer 

the cries of authors, editors, printers, publishers – even marketeers. 

“Take me,

just read my blurb, 

fondle me, 

smell me, 

feel me between your fingers. 

Let’s go somewhere quiet and consummate. 

You may suck my blood.”