Wednesday, 22 March 2017


In my last few trips home to Belfast, on my wanderings around the city, I have found myself looking around Smithfield Market. Now, no offence to any of today's traders but I do recall the old place, before the destructive fire in May, 1974, and staring at the site now brings back memories of many visits. I loved the place. I remember many things but especially the second-hand books, stale, musty, dank..... and recalled Hugh Greer's  in a poem I wrote about my first bookcase. Back then I wasn't too fond of second-hand books and I'm still the same today - with the odd exception, if there's a particular book I want and the only option is pre-owned. However, this poem is about more than that and, a warning to all the 'loose' poets out there, it rhymes! 


Teak, mahogany, oak, not a bit of it, luxury woods for the rich in the main,
My first bookcase was an oranges crate all the way from Seville in southern Spain.
Thrown out by the bins at the back of a shop, I carried it home with an idea in my head,
This crate would lose its original use and be transformed into a library instead.

Thin slats held with nails and wire, middle shelf and bottom for the books,
Old curtain attached, draped at the front, practical and cheap, not going for looks.
Paperbacks above, hardbacks below, encyclopedias, poetry, westerns and crime,
It lasted for years at the foot of my bed, my collection of knowledge, adventure and rhyme.

They had to be new books, not secondhand, of secondhand books I had my concerns
For someone had told me that oft-handled books would almost certainly be carrying germs,
Just like the well-thumbed, musty tomes in Hugh Greer’s untidy Smithfield store,
Inside the spines and under the covers, pages and pages of germs galore.

The only secondhand book I had on a shelf was ‘As I Roved Out’ by Cathal O’Byrne,
A gift from a nun I couldn’t refuse, a whimsical book at every turn.
Stories of old Belfast told by a master, the storyteller’s art on wondrous display
Describing a rough town smoothed by the telling, a good book to own whatever I say.

I can’t recall the day I threw out the crate. It might have collapsed through wear and tear.
But it did a good job for a number of years and I missed it just being there.
In southern Spain when I was nine or ten, men loaded crates onto ships at the docks
And unknown to them this Belfast boy was less keen on the fruit but had plans for the box.

No comments:

Post a Comment