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, intrigue 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.