Week 162: Public Library, by Dannie Abse

The Welsh writer Dannie Abse, who died last year, had a line in evocative urban melancholy that I find engaging, as in this poem where he speculates somewhat wryly on his likely readership. But how nice to be able to assume that one does actually have a readership…

Public Library

Who, in the public library, one evening after rain,
amongst the polished tables and linoleum,
stands bored under blank light to glance at these pages?
Whose absent mood, like neon glowing in the night,
is conversant with wet pavements, nothing to do?

Neutral, the clock-watching girl stamps out the date,
a forced celebration, a posthumous birthday,
her head buttered by the drizzling library lamps,
yet the accident of words, too, can light the semi-dark
should the reader lead them home, generously journey,
later to return, perhaps leaving a bus ticket as a bookmark.

Who wrote in margins hieroglyphic notations,
that obscenity, deleted this imperfect line?
Read by whose hostile eyes, in what bed-sitting room,
in which rainy, dejected railway stations?

Dannie Abse

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