Every Punter Wins a Prize

1 August 2012

See how the Fates their gifts allot,
For A is happy; B is not.
—The Mikado

At Maud Cahill’s bookshop I produce a list
of books I’d sooner sell than keep on seeing
on my shelves. It’s time that dust returned to dust.

I know the story, otherwise: they’ll stand
together, till the final purge of all, when heirs
will toss out Kees and Bishop, Pope and Sappho

in the same box with this sad lot who have hung out
on the sidewalks of the mind to beg for cash.
Perhaps their trash is others’ treasure. Maybe

there are people who, determined to have
one of every book that has been printed,
dream of making life-sized pyramids of paper:

who can say? Clive James composed a psalm
of joy to see his enemy’s book remaindered.
I’ve more charity, took pity on the homeless,

brought them in until they nudged aside my friends.
I tell Maud, strike out the ones you never wish
to see. She goes, predictably, to those

I first set down; Ronald, Lynda, Steven, Di,
you others: be advised, the Great Recycler
is at hand. Not for you the antiquarian

dealer, nor suburban op-shop bin. There are more
ways to cure depression – mine, or any future reader’s:
you shall be made one with nature, part

of that infinitude of atoms whence you came.
Your fractured dactyls will go flapping to the earth
to keep down weeds rank as yourself; you boys

who entered like a military band performing Sousa
will go out like that last horse’s tail that leaves
with its last flourish nothing but the scent behind.

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