And the most, though meanest, of things
are made more precious, when they
are dedicated to Temples.

John Heminge
Henry Condell

You step inside—
The lighting by the turnstile is subdued.
A librarian, or shall I say a
Keeper of the books, stands by ready to
Be helpful, ready perhaps for alarm.
You smile, no threat, you’ve come to see the place.
No fee. Already you are brushing past
The ritual barrier and exploring.

Tier upon tier
Of a playhouse of bindings. Bar lamps turned,
Like chatting heads, illuminate the cast.
The worth that jumps in your mind at these things.
Where balusters might be found is tinted
Glass along the rail, the stacks. A bearded
Acolyte moves slowly above, touching
Them. And you pivot around and around
And look up in this polyhedral space.
One could dedicate some time to this.
Sanguine shades suggest the mood; you are in
A cell; illumination must not be
Harsh; the architecture is functional.
Downstairs is the reading room. It’s early
Morning, so you might try from something rare.

The First Folio
Is brought, this opening of printed praise.
Think, all the world was once a small wood stage
Too crude for our imagination now,
Accustomed, as we are, to film and tape.
Curious and wondrous was the flux of
English then, inexact as wattle and
Thatch, a rich confusion retaining its
Argument in type. It would not be so
Gloriously old were this life itself.
No one would believe in the light of the
Sun who stared always on brown, crooked leaves.
These pages are like a seed conducive
To moist meaning when conditions are right.
They speak to all: the message goes like this:
Two actors of this playwright’s company
Have assembled the bulk of his work which
They commend to the reader’s attention.
Several other pens lay down their lines, for
They held this gifted man in high esteem.
His words will last; yes, they are sure of that.

Upon the wall
An electric clock tells clockwise time, black-
And-white against black, stylishly absorbed.
Evenly sweeps the red sweep second hand,
A thin red line between our time and time.
The bare concrete pillars brood upon things,
Textures, essences, what is modern and what
Now is new.

Excerpt from the poem “In The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library,” which is included in the volume Selected Poems 1967 -2007 by Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.