A Friday poem by Gillian Clarke to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week 2017.


In a Cardiff Arcade, 1952
One of those little shops too small
for the worlds they hold, where words
that sing you to sleep, stories
that stalk your dreams,
open like golden windows in a wall.
One small room leads to another,
the first bright-windowed on the street,
alluring, luminous. The other is dusk,
walled with pressed pages, old books
with leathery breath and freckled leaves.
What stays is not the book alone
but where you took it down,
how it felt in your hands,
how she wrapped it in brown paper,
how you carried it home,
how it holds wild seas
that knock the earth apart,
how words burn, freeze,
to break and heal your heart.

'In A Cardiff Arcade' was originally featured in Off the Shelf, a collection of thirty poems celebrating the joy of bookshops, edited by Carol Ann Duffy.