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The Bookseller, by Catharine Savage Brosman

September 01, 1996

Until I die, I shall abide by books--

feeling the leather and the gilded spine,

running my thumb along the rippled edge,

sensing the musty cloth, the wormy page,

the odor of a chest or rooms untended

where a distant heir one day divined

a windfall for his bank account, and called

on me. Here, watch your step; I cannot

see, but my companion says that books

have almost filled the hallway, overflowed

the bedroom, where I feel their presence

at night among my dreams. Will you have

some tea and scones, or else a hot cross

bun, to mark the season? Yes, all London

bustles here on Oxford Street, and I suppose

I need the sense that others are about;

but what we know most keenly is desire,

and in desire I know the darkness, not

the life I hear but that which I imagine--

the way you, reading of the Trojan War

or the Crusades, perhaps, are startled

by the telephone, thinking of Helen's face

instead, of Hector's body pulled behind

the wheels of arrogance. Tamer of horses

I can never be--but rider of another world

informed by paper--and, for me, in tongues

beneath my fingertips. To sell, of course,

is necessary, and I thank you; but I need

to feel beside me, too, this field of words

aflame, where blinded poets make the Sirens

sing, and I can almost glimpse the light,

the dazzling seascape that Odysseus sailed.

From "Passages" by Catharine Savage Brosman (Louisiana State University Press: $16.95, 60 pp.) Copyright 1996 Reprinted by permission.

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