books

There’s a Supermarket Where the Library Once Stood

There’s a supermarket where the library once stood.
I sometimes forget that it’s now gone for good.
Last week I asked if they had any Flaubert.
A shrug in response. ‘The cheese counter’s there.’

There’s a supermarket where the library had been.
I’ve been reading some Dhal in ‘Indian cuisine’.
No golden tickets, witches or giants, of course;
just chickpeas and lentils in a creamy spiced sauce.

There’s a supermarket where the library once was.
I had tried to hand back an old Grapes of Wrath.
Sorry, they told me, but it’s really too late,
they’ll be shrivelled and well past their best-before-date.

There’s a supermarket where the library once stood.
A Sainsbury’s Local has bulldozed my childhood.
The library had been starved of state funding, I guess.
Take books off the menu and live well for less.

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In Search Of Lost Tomes

I had forgotten that —
for a long time — I went to bed early,
seduced by Proust,
who so often had le mot juste
about affairs of the heart
and the nature of art,
and all that stuff.

But life and things passed,
gave way to armchaired collapse
in front of a screen,
scrolling through memes,
watching videos of cats.

Until one evening,
when retrieving the remote,
I found you again, on the shelf,
as if stumbling upon a swan’s nest
amongst the reeds, hidden,
your pages like fresh linen.

Written to commemorate the death of Marcel Proust, 18th November 1922.

Bookshopping

I would get everything
from a bookshop if I were able.
The food on my table

would come from there.
I would dine on tartts and flanns,
chocolate baudelaires,

lead a life of pi and dahl,
rice and flat tortillas,
accompanied by greenes.

They would all arrive
upon the scene
on gleaming sylvia platters. ​

The environment matters
so I would buy products
to suit eco-friendly homes,

like organic biographies,
and recycled tomes
with which to paper walls.

Wildely, I’d buy a painting
to hang in the attic or hall,
next to a looking-glass

(to admire my unchanging looks).
I’d build a coffee table
out of coffee table books.

I would buy my clothes there.
Dust jackets, ragged trousers,
experimental novel underwear.

But no, instead it’s the bore
of the supermarket, the mall,
the soulless online store

that try to take me in my prime
and leave me searching
for lost time.

But they can shelve
their plans for me.
I shall ignore all their displays.

I am piling up
these reference books
to make a bookshop barricade.

Beach Reading

Essential to any beach trip this summer
is Mouna Lellouche’s Obsidian Nights,
an exploration of the self and modernity,

and best consumed in its original Berber,
of course. She’s been gone a year now.
There’s no book that shouts ‘READ ME!’

louder than the waves which crash
upon the rocks than John Phillipston’s
fine new exploration of equine prostitution

in early modern theatre, ‘Tis Pity
She’s a Horse’
. I woke one morning
and she’d just cleared out. And, finally,

any time spent relaxing underneath that –
no note, nothing – Mediterranean sun
would be incomplete without the latest –

she’d only taken the little suitcase –
Oriana Malmoud, whose new book,
The Insubstantiality of Things, is a sustained critique

of consumer culture – pizza again tonight –
which, she argues, can only be combated
by a new set of moral imperatives.

BRIAN BILSTON’S COLLECTED POEMS

In a break with tradition, I’m not posting up a poem. Rather, I am indulging in some utterly shameless self-promotion. I apologise for that.

I may have a book of my poetry published with the wonderful Unbound. But to make it happen, I’m going to need your help.

Unbound are a crowdsourcing publisher so they only publish things that people want. Whether the people will want my thing is another matter. Anyway, they’ve made a video about Brian and there are a number of “pledge levels” for potential purchases. It’s all here:

www.unbound.co.uk/books/brian-bilston

Thanks for listening. And I promise that I won’t do this kind of thing again.

Brian
x

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Special Offers

I took the volume to the counter
where the bookseller said to me,
“You do realise, sir, that today
is Buy One Get One Free.”

So I went and chose another book,
and waited patiently in the queue,
but this time he pointed at a sign
which said Three for the Price of Two.

I thought I’d go for something lighter
and so I came back with a thriller.
The bookseller said, “The Impossible Dead!
That means you get to sleep with Cilla.”

His assistant took me by the hand
and led me into the stock room;
we made love against an unsold stack
of biographies of David Hume.

The bookseller had more to say,
when I returned to the shop floor,
“As the 100th person she’s had this year,
here are the keys to the store.”

He took an urgent phone call and said
“It seems that you’re in luck again.
Head Office have told me to tell you
about “Win One Store, Get the Chain.”

And so it went on for days and weeks,
each special offer bigger than the last,
I won shops, businesses, countries, planets,
my empire was boundless and vast.

It wasn’t easy running the universe;
indeed, every spare moment it took.
So busy was I, no matter how hard I tried,
I never got to read my book.