His was a textbook,
plucked from the shelves of academia.
He savoured it, his exploits purely intellectual,
and the book was like him:
raggedly worn, spine compromised,
but used books have the most character, he thought:
not the smell of tea-stained, dinner-spattered pages
or the spectres of long, lost pauses:
merely the appearance
And hers, hers was a novel.
He'd bought her the book she'd wanted
the day after he'd forgotten
about her birthday.
A romantic classic, he recalled.
No doubt fanciful;
yet - Classically inclined - maybe not drawl.
Each alike and yet unalike:
her dottings and jottings were
of a long-memoried tradition
of pencilled hearts and cupid darts,
poems, odes and elegies, short sharp soliloquies
on the blank pages at the back of the book;
now rubbed clean with the gathering
of character, which she'd carefully lifted,
her slow turning, growing fat with words,
her life a bright gathering point of light.
She siphoned substance from thin air,
a shaman, and produced life from out of nowhere,
her body pregnant with the seed of creation.
She did not memorise the words: she felt them.
She held them. Cradled them then let them go,
the feeling never lost, the shape imprinted whitely,
distant growing fainter, a vague recalling of beating
He was purely technical: underlining the unfamiliar
or words he hoped to drop in polite conversation,
thinking oneupmanship a courtesy he and only he
could bestow. He littered the pages with arrows,
demarcations in the margins, lightbulbs
beaming out, signalling the location of his ego
which now claimed territory outside the violence
of his psyche.
When he'd finished and had returned the book,
he briefly considered rubbing clean his pencilled additions,
but thought better of wiping clean all traces
of himself. For here is where he'd been.
Know them, these places.
But she, she was different.
She left the book unmarred, unmuddied;
each word unmurdered and unbloodied.
She thought, you will never know I've been
here. If you somehow do,
you have been looking
in all the wrong places.
But then she thought wrong of her former right;
and before she set it free, one summer night,
she took out her pencil and marked the first page,
below where the title suggested the gathering storm
of the passions held therein; a devotional note.
Here's how it begins:
I hope you enjoy this book. I tried not to
cry onto the pages. I read it slowly, too;
it took me ages, months of revelation and pain,
but somehow, at end, I did not heal - never again...
Then she paused and thought of the friend
she'd never meet, who'd read this book; how to lend?
Out of the ether, the shimmering star, she found her end:
I shall close now simply. I wish you well.
May you one day write your own devotion
in place of this. And may you seal it
in chains of steel, protected
with a kiss...
I hope these pages set you free
and fair you far better
than they ever did