Tag Archives Portico Library

THE OLD MEN AT THE LIBRARY

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There was abundant water from the hills, that once

had been wooded. Under heath and pasture

there were seams of coal and clay deposits

to drive the factory engines and build

the chimneys, which were made by ambitious,

ingenious men for ambitious,

greedy men. The small town became a large town,

and then a city. Tenements were built

for the poor, who had come from hamlets,

at the distant end of tree-lined lanes,

to be less poor. The river, whose source

was in the hills and along whose banks

people had first settled aeons ago,

became, in a decade, an open sewer.


The old men who had become rich because

they owned by chance a lucky piece of land

decided to build a library – leeward

of the prevailing wind – so as to grace

the centre of their famous city.

It would have a Grecian portico

for its entrance, upholstered chairs, and shelves

of mahogany for leather-bound books,

ancient and modern, on all the sciences

and the arts, and the history of the world.


They wondered if a clock were needed –

and then remembered they owned each second.

They had commodified time. What the place lacked

the old men realised – and they were all men,

and only men who owned part of the earth –

was a wind dial so that they might travel home,

after improving their minds, to their mansions

in the foothills, unassailed by acrid

factory smoke and the cloying miasma

from the tenements and the river, but knowing

their fortunes were assured.

A SENTIENT PLACE

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