A Burning


“I fell out with somebody once who burnt their books.

It was a new couple, getting married, and they said to me,

oh, we burnt all his books.

I don’t want to be friends with people who burn books.” (Josie Hall)


We were a new couple just starting out,

it was none of my idea for a nice home. I saw

        Unmixt with foreign filth, and undefil’d

pale walls, made-to-measure pencil-pleat curtains

at every sparkling window; all cream carpets

       Beseeming well the bower of anie Queene.

Where could these go, so many of them

      Guilty of dust and sin

and spiders spinning behind them, I said

who’s going to be pulling them forward four at a time

to do the shelves twice a week? Not me.


He wasn’t best pleased. But I reasoned with him

      Till, dying, all he can resign is breath

I said well you’ve read them, haven’t you?

Any you’ve read, you know what’s in them.

      ‘Tis madness to resist or blame

Any you haven’t, you obviously weren’t interested,

or you would have got round to it sooner.

       Longings wild and vain

                      For the rich help of books

Neither use nor ornament, and besides,

where will they go? Come on, we’ll do it together.


I’m the type of person, once my mind’s made up,

I want to get on with it

      And bonefiers make all day

Good thing it was a dry October

      So red, so ripe the roses burned

and he still had the allotment back then,

it took two trips in his car and all afternoon

      I warm’d both hands before the fire of life

to get rid of them. It was sort of interesting

watching them catch at the edges and then go up.


      Peace, good reader, do not weep


I made us a cup of tea in the shed

and we shared a packet of custard creams.


Eleanor Brown 2015