The ocean washed me down Wandsworth road
On to this archipelago of tower blocks;
These desert islands which became a kind of paradise
Because now it always feels like home wherever I am washed
It was a strange paradise this land of giants.
The chaos swirled through in dark currents
Murders, illness, rape and disablity
Eddying round the dogged homes of quiet faith
Yet at times the quiet would pervade all
In the blanketing of surprising snow
Or in the stillness of a chill December night:
A pure wind of God, icy and straight and true.
The library sat quietly amongst the gray giants
Flanked by the cautious battlements of my church
And the humdrum struggles of the York square shops.
It was an island of books amid a sea of the spoken word
The big windows brought a quiet light to its learning
While the old read newspapers
And the young sought diversion from their boredom.
I wandered here to escape the loneliness of bachelordom.
It was a haven
And a treasure trove
And an ocean of learning to travel endlessly.
It was everything a library should be.
And in the hall a toddler group bustled
While the school crocodile pitter-pattered
To story time in the children's library
And the head librarian sat on our management committee
It was not grand like the central library
Refitted and bright with the buzz of book readers
But it served our community
Which endured books as a necessary distraction from life.
They closed it of course.
As they had closed the children's library on the neighbouring estate
But no sit-in now, just the acceptance of the inevitable:
If you don't read books you don't deserve a library.
Now I visit and the library is squeezed into the community centre
(Itself an overblown failure: capital expenditure exceeding revenue funding)
And the square is left empty,
The big windows blacked, my thoughts sad
And my heart angry.