MY LIBRARY HOME

ny library

One of my earliest memories is of going to the Library.  The Librarians then were very strict and wouldn’t allow you in until they had checked that your hands were clean.  I didn’t care.  I just wanted to get in amongst those books and read and read and read.  This Library has now closed and a new one built in its place.  The new one is fine but it doesn’t smell of floor polish, or lines of wooden shelves and, most importantly, it doesn’t smell of books. 

Every library I’ve ever visited is clear in my memory but I especially remember the New York Library; a) because it was so beautiful, it took my breath away and b) because, in the book sale there, I bought two volumes which have taken their place on my shelves of best-loved books.

One book was ‘Letters of Arnold Bennett – Volume 2 – 1889-1915’ and the other was ‘Letters of Arnold Bennett – Volume 3 – 1916-1931.’  Bennett was a writer I really admired and still do.

I also love the stamped inscription on the bottom of the books. ‘The New York Public Library – The Branch Libraries,’ and inside, ‘Withdrawn, for free use in City Cultural and Welfare Institutions.  May be sold for the benefit of the New York Public Library only.’  Long live New York Public Library.

Then there was the one in the city of Dundee, Scotland.  A very small Public Library that was so modest, it hardly took up any room at all but with the same magic inside.  That Library has gone, as well, but I still walk into it in my mind. 

 Libraries always seemed to require that you filled in forms and produced a copy of your Birth Certificate before they’d let you have a book.  I’d have supplied them with my blood group, shoe size and almost anything else just to get inside and pick up a book, a book, a book, a book.

 

                                                MY LIBRARY HOME 

When they tell me to ‘Attach Birth Certificate here,’
I ask them which one they mean.
The first one that simply affirms I have been born,
Or the real one, where under ‘Place of Birth,’
I have written ‘Library.’

For it was amongst these book-lined shelves
I was born to an awareness and understanding
Of what men and women, girls and boys get up to,
Plus all those other things we’re told that flesh is heir to.
I took down those books, held them, read them
And loved them so much, I hugged them.

I read about everything.
Love and hate, life and death, war and peace,
Joy and sorrow, crime and punishment.
I read about mountains, valleys, deserts, cities and jungles,
And how man was just a pinprick of light
In a vast darkness.
Or, maybe, a pinprick of darkness
In an ocean of light.

I learnt about creatures that walk, talk, crawl, creep, swim and fly
And how a sudden, surprising spark of affection
Can be a connection between them and us,
Us and them.

Which was why, under ‘Nationality’ where it said,
‘Tick any one of the countries that follow from A to Z,’
I ticked them all instead.
For I am every colour and race, creed, dogma and faith.
Is that hard?
Not when you’ve got a Library card.

So that’s my real home, for me and generations before me,
For together we speak for all those yet to come,
Who need us to succour them, love them, encourage them,
build them and fill them, and shine ‘em up,
As they find their place in their Library home. 

                                                ©2017 GWEN GRANT

BUT THERE’S HOPE…….

dancers clip art

 

BUT THERE’S HOPE…….

We thought that we were stronger far
Than Old Man Time.
That hand-in-hand we could out-dance
The Lady of the Hours.
That every moment was forever
At our beck and call,
And we would be always young and lovely
As the Spring-time flowers.

We half understood when this one
Turned their face unto the wall,
When that one couldn’t get
A second breath.
But we were slow to understand
That Time is iron,
In its iron will to bring about
Our iron deaths.

Yet when all is said and done and told,
We ever understood that love turned
Iron into gold.

                               © 2017 Gwen Grant

LITTLE GIRLS LYING IN THE SNOW AND ICY AIR

snowflurries

  LITTLE GIRLS LYING IN THE SNOW AND ICY AIR

In that hour of the afternoon,
Quiet and bare, the leaves having long since fallen,
The woods set firm, thick and heavy,
Sending shape and shadow creeping towards us,
My friend lay in the bunk next to mine
And I watched her.

Watched the bunk slowly topple over,
Saw her black hair suddenly veiled with blossom,
A slow and icy blossom of snow,
Touching her closed eyes, restless and flickering
Under their thin brown skin covering.

I could not breathe for fear but fell beside her,
Lying there, watching her, anxiously whispering.
I could not move until they picked her up,

Gathering her to them like a fallen flower,
A crumpled petal.  Carrying her away.

Now the wicked woods shook with laughter,
Bare branches creaking with loss,
And loneliness, that greedy companion.

Snow falling quietly on all the little girls
Lying in the snow and icy air.

                                             © Gwen Grant   

TULIPS

tulips 2

                TULIPS

These Tulips are a dazzle
Of tethered sunshine,
Silky lemon petals trembling
In the slow moving air.

Courteous flowers,
Bowing to each other,
Bending low to the waiting room
Their stems gently curving,
Lifting the green and lovely leaves
That we might see
The fabulous hidden life
Waiting for us all.

                                       © 2019 Gwen Grant

AND WHEN NIGHT COMES

The bright sun

Easter Sunday – when I was a girl, all the children wen to Sunday school, the girls
with new candy striped dresses, white ankle socks and black patent leather shoes and the boys in short grey trousers and new shirts with a sleeveless pullover.  I loved my candy striped dress, sometimes pink, sometimes green.  Happy Easter Sunday.

      AND WHEN NIGHT COMES

And when night comes
And darkness drifts over the earth
And fields vanish
And hedgerows become blurs of colour,
And the falling frost
Lays a bridal veil on the darkened grass,
And the lovely trees,
And all trees are lovely,
Fill the darkness with their magnificence
And their little inked-in leaves
Chuckle and rustle and whisper of the love
Shown for us in the drenching beauty of the night,
And the thin, thin beam of moonlight
Shines down like hope shining
Through the darkness of all those lost lives,

Well, then, that anxious heart
Staring through the midnight glass
Should find rest.
But those ears are deaf,
Those eyes blind to the radiance of the night,
Seeing only the darkness of the hour,
And then, for it is then, the frightened,
The fractured heart cries aloud,
O God, my God, where are you?’ 

And as the dying echoes of those trembling sounds
Vanish into the vanished fields
And sink into the blurry hedgerows,
The little inked-in leaves rustle and chuckle
And whisper those eternal words of love.
I am the light to your darkness,
I am the hope to your despair.
I am the peace to your pain.
I am the love you can rest on.’ 

                                              © Gwen Grant

A NIGHT AT THE PUB

pud 2

     A NIGHT AT THE PUB

Mario Lanza began to sing
And from a far corner of the crowded room,
Another Mario joined in.
Another and another,
Until the whole place rang
With song and laughter.

Then, in his far corner, Elvis stood,
Quietly singing of love and loss,
Singing of a real reality
Until, one by one, they all fell silent.
Even the drunks hushed their slurred words,
Listening to a song of loss and loneliness
So intense, life meant nothing.

The Bar was silent, breathless with memory
As Elvis sang, and when he was done,
Mario began again.
And beer was passed from Bar to drinker.
Someone ordered a cheeky Campari,
With bright red cherry and a paper umbrella.
Whoa!  Hold the soda.

Night pressed against the Pub’s lit windows,
But no-one wanted to go,
To be swallowed by the darkness,
Wanted only to stay here in the mad brightness,
Listening to the singing,
Listening to the daft loons laughter,
Gulping Lager in the corner
And watch the girls swinging
On the tiny, tiny dance floor.
Dancing as if dancing could conquer
The songs they were hearing.
As if being young could conquer everything.

Strange to meet Mario and Elvis here,
Two bony young fellows singing to the drunk and to the sober,
Singing to drown or lighten the drinker’s sorrows.               

                                                     © 2019 Gwen Grant

WHEN YOU WERE HERE

lost sun

              WHEN YOU WERE HERE

 When you were here
There were hollyhocks in the garden.
Your shadow passed the house,
Stopping before the red lights
Of the Station crossing.
I saw you everywhere then.
The flap of your coat round a distant corner,
Your green shirt adding a leaf
To the darkness of a familiar tree.
In your buttonhole you wore a bright red poppy,
Those blazing flowers that now I give to you
As once you gave to me. 

Still I see you.
There is no road, no court, no turning in this town
That does not carry the imprint of your sandalled foot.
No fence, no wall, no plot that does not hold
The memory of your dark and curious eyes. 

When you came home after the war was over,
You carried me around this town upon your shoulder,
Until I, too, recognised each old leaf and stone
And your friend’s faces I knew almost as I knew your own.        

But now you’re gone,
And all those things you taught and told me,
Which were as close to me as my blood,
Have faded in the bleaching touch of our lost sun,
Except my knowledge of you,
And of your love. 

                                        © 2019 Gwen Grant