There’s something about books that have already been read. It’s as though each reader leaves a little of themselves between the pages. The older the book, the more worn its cover, the more yellowed its pages, the better loved it’s been, the more prized it becomes, especially if there’s an inscription, a ‘well done’ a ‘much love from’, that touches on the lives others.
Bamber’s Bookshop is a combination of memories of every dusty second hand book shop I’ve ever been in. The person browsing its shelves is looking for something she hadn’t realised she’d lost.
But then, at times, aren’t we all?
The faded sign at Bamber’s Books creaks gently in the wind,
Its tantalising secrets hide behind its yellowed blind
Where flies lie dead and washed out books,
Put there for those who choose to look,
Insidiously seek to draw me in.
Down worn and narrow wooden steps, uncertainly I tread.
The tang of dust and scent of must is swirling round my head.
The dimness matches my dismay,
I watch a single light bulb sway,
And wonder at the power that drew me in.
The titles stretch from by my feet to way above my head.
Some, familiar comrades, thousands more, I’ve never read
Are crowded in that tiny room,
Their presence hazy in the gloom.
Their very essence seems to draw me in.
I wander browsing book to book; trail fingers through the grime,
Seeking things I thought I’d lost down passageways through time.
Beseeching that that led me there,
That futile hope, that fear, that care,
To show me just why I was tempted in.
Was I pulled in naively to these riches from before,
By half-remembered memories and long forgotten thoughts?
By resounding echoes fading,
Falling victim to times shading.
Could this be what it was that drew me in?
Then, to sooth my agitation in this unfamiliar place,
A long past, treasured volume, well remembered, stills my pace,
Its ghostly, faded cover,
Reminiscent of no other
Than that which I feel sure has lured me in.
I slide the book from where it lies, its cover torn and tattered.
But if this book is what I hope, its cover never mattered.
I turn the page, my heart stands still,
While years flash by as if at will.
Now there’s no doubt why I was tempted in.
Inside the ragged cover, in a scrawl I recognise,
The words that I’d forgotten, dancing strange before my eyes.
‘Lots of love my darling daughter,
May your life be full of laughter!’
The reason clear why I was tempted in.
I feel the world grow brighter as a light begins to glow
And I read that special message from a time so long ago.
‘Happy Birthday, Love from Dad’,
The last words I ever had
And I feel the energy that drew me in.
I paid the man whose chair was worn, whose shirt was frayed and torn,
Whose face was everyone I’d met since the day that I was born.
‘This book,’ he said with tender care,
‘Must not be lost – its very rare.’
And I knew he knew what power had pulled me in.
The tantalising secrets Bamber’s hides behind its blind,
Are tempting someone else now in some other space or time.
‘Julie’s’ now the sign declares,
‘We’ll tan you fast; we’ll do your hair.’
The bogus brilliance of its windows draws them in.
But my enduring dog-eared book sits proudly on my sill,
Reminding me of those I’ve lost, whose presence haunts me still.
Their echoes, never fading,
Complimented by time’s shading,
And I know now who it was that drew me in.
© Lynn Smith March 2006