All the way from Somerset (UK), Henry Bladon brings us two poems, “The Modernist Tea Shop” and “In the Moroccan Bookshop.” Both poems are set in enclosed spaces where books, readings, and writing converge to locate both the poet and the reader in ways that it is hard to tell them apart.
The Modernist Tea Shop
In the modernist tea shop people drink cold cups of coffee.
They drink latte with their Proust.
They eat scones with their Joyce.
They read Beckett with a slice of lemon drizzle cake.
Some guests prefer cappuccino,
and they drink this when they
discuss the work of Henry Moore.
For Derrida, it must be double espresso,
as the argument always drifts when
it strays into postmodernism.
However, one thing you must never do
in the Modernist Tea Shop is order a pot of Earl Grey
because you will never be invited back.
In the Moroccan Bookshop
I was browsing the bookshop in Marrakesh. Some light jazz played on their sound system. I could smell the bitter smell of syrupy coffee. In the corner there was a darkened staircase.
I nodded at the shopkeeper and said, bonjour.
I took out some books and sneezed because of the dust. The shopkeeper muttered something and when I turned around, he was pointing to the ceiling, suggesting there was another floor to explore, so I started up the mahogany stairs.
The treads creaked as I walked.
The room upstairs was full of shelves crammed with books. I walked the aisles and ran my fingers across the spines until saw a novel with a woven book cover made of a thousand stitches.
I began to wonder where craftsmanship had gone and why people no longer took such effort in making things of beauty.
I opened the cover and on the facing page there was an inscription written in royal blue ink with an italic nib.
It said: A Mélanie, je suis dévasté – tu me manque avec tout mon coeur. Je sanglote toutes les journées.
I asked the shopkeeper what it said. He spoke with a thick accent, but I understood that it was something about missing a lost love. I asked him what sanglote meant. He said the writer was describing his sobbing.
It was so sad I bought the book. Then I started to sob and I haven’t stopped since.