There are certain precautions one must take
when stalking the aisles of a book store.
It isn’t so simple as a stroll in the park
or a saunter along some moonlit path.
No. This is war. You’ve entered the most
intimidating, the most intelligent, of battlefields.
Ammunition? Your vernacular. Weapon? Your intuition.
Tread lightly, soldier, for this is the Promised Land, a place
only the brave, the scholarly, the passionate, dare walk.
A place where vicious works of words try to trap you,
attempt to enslave you, struggle to keep you pet.
Stand your ground, and do not yield. For I have
seen the horrors of the battlefield and I know,
better than many, what one must do
Pristine copies of the untouched unopened unused
unhandled undiscovered unwanted unloved,
novels stare at you. Menacing. Cold. Aloof.
Do you dare try me? some seem to whisper. Do you dare
open me, drown in the gentle caress of my words,
smell my untainted pages and stroke my spine
as though I’ll be yours, always and forever?
This isn’t just war, my friends. This is a battle of the wits,
a showdown of love. You are Odysseus, and these
are your sirens, wooing and wishing you off course,
steering you towards the inevitable doom
all romance novels seem to promise.
It’s the thrillers and mysteries now, rows and rows of yarn
even Agatha Christie couldn’t find a way to untangle.
Chaos and madness and the supernatural
at every corner, every page turn.
It’s unnerving. It’s appalling. It’s elementary.
The poetry and classics are your next opponents.
Strong they stand, full of weather-worn wisdom
acquirable only from years and years of experience.
They know the readers like you: starved of light,
preying off the little warmth darkness has to offer.
So it’s with the promise of the “Draught of Sunshine” and
of “Blackberrying” in the summer they draw you in,
expecting you to cast away all Sense and Sensibility
for their petty promises of pleasure.
But this is no game; a great Tempest, instead, waged
by those guilty of empty promises and fulfillment.
Once they leave, they are, after all, irreplaceable.
At long last you have completed your mission. Left the
Shire, left Winterfell, Hogwarts, the flat on Baker Street.
Ignored all silly vices to attain the one thing
you’ve needed most:
a good book.
And when that little girl clad in a pink jumper, left hand wrapped
tightly around a shiny new copy of The Secret Garden
gazes, with eyes bigger than the moon, at your own thick volume
documenting the thirteen and a half lives of Captain Bluebear
remember, that you were, too, that little girl once.
That you too once eyed Watership Down with wariness,
That the mere mention of a Bronte sister’s name
was enough to make you wuther away into nothingness,
You too once saw the minefield that is a book shop
as an abyss, a place where readers from all backgrounds
lose themselves in the madness that are words.
Remember this and, as you turn to look at her,
For not everything need be a war in a book store.