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.”



My old school

My old school
My old school

My old school

My old classmates

My old playground

My old teachers

My old stomping ground

My old team

My old routine

You served me a dish fit for a Limerick boy, a Jesuit boy, a Roman Catholic boy, a professional boy

– doctor, dentist, auctioneer, lawyer, publican, priest, fishmonger, bookseller, architect, accountant, shopkeeper, teacher, vet, insurance broker,

Nothing on the menu for a father, lover, lorry driver, bricklayer, songwriter, carpenter, gardener, bus conductor, poet, vagrant, commercial traveller

In my day…