A Promiscuity of Spines


You have a synecdoche dream.

“One day, my dear, it would be sweet;

It would be very fine indeed, one day,


If all your books and mine

Were stacked against the future,

Packed on the same set of shelves


Under the same star-proof ceiling

Somewhere with a mountain

And maybe a lake.”


My Barnes against your Hoban;

Your Mitford on my Matheson—

I get the picture. Good. It’s good


And fitting that this should be so. But

There’s one thing.

There’s just one thing.


I promise that I will not be put out

If among your books I find

A dedication from the past, from


Someone wholly unlike me

But close to what you’d had in mind

Once, before you changed it


Or he changed;

Long before I came to be

Even half a bookmark in your week,


Let alone a finger lightly touching

Yours between the second glass of wine

And everything.


But you may take exception if you like,

To the Miller and its “velvet kitten kiss”

For who would welcome that among her Penguins?


That one’s gone, the one who wrote those words;

Was gone before her nib was even wet. Off to be

Outstanding in the snow. And yours are gone.


I do not mind their traces and their names;

I do not mind their strokes, their wit, their style,

Flat against the grain.