Had we shelf-space enough, and time,
This gluttony, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and read away
The afternoons of our love’s long day;
You, by the fickle muse’s side
Through Poetry stroll; I, in the tide
Of Comedians’ Biographies drift. We would
Build ourselves an ark of Fantasy, and flood
The kitchen-cum-dining room with dinosaurs.
With Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall we’d pause,
Let love of vegetarian dishes grow
Vaster than empires, if rather more slow.
We’d slip Romances from their covers
And teach them the true tongue of book lovers.
We’d turn the Histories on their heads
And use them to prop up our bed
As pages turn; now fast, now slow,
As night slips off its feathered coat.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
The creak of over-filled shelves, and fear
The wrath of books as yet unread,
Stacked by their fellows, like the dead
In a charnel house, organised by bone,
Not body. Love, when I’m alone
At night, methinks I hear them growl
Their displeasure, cover by jowl
By unbent, uncreased, unheld spine.
I know, my love. You’ve not had time.
The grave’s a quiet place indeed,
But probably too dark to read.
Now therefore, while the festive bunting
flutters from shops, while bargain-hunting
punters surge through every door,
I have a private treat in store.
Let us sport us while we may
With circular saw and drill, just say
The word, and pick the colour out.
We’ll measure and cut and sand and rout,
and fill the last empty vertical surface
with a bookcase built for just that purpose.
My lady, but tend to my need;
I’ll build the shelves, and we shall read.
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