Journey into Space
It is the reading room, locality is everything.
The shelves stack up with Northumbrian essentials –
no quoin or corner unincluded, no coal-faced,
coped-with tragedy. Deeds, decisions, votes
and attitudes; careful cuttings; local plants,
vanished yards and ships, and bound editions
of the Tyne Tees TV Times. Minutes
thinned from hours, or letters into words,
events that gripped then fell away like wasted
grain. Lost dreadnoughts, councils, mothers, every
mother’s son – the yesterdays that go unnoticed
here all gather space and wait. For what?
These past times, people and their papers,
might vanish into air – scanned in, compressed,
become alive in an electric dark that everyone
can share – or continue to degrade to dust,
an irritation in the throat, the reddened eye:
the stuff, the dreams, all cleared or wiped away.
The Secret Agents
A thin silence comes from all parts of the planet,
The agents in the reading room have settled to their tasks.
Laptops reflect their lenses, anonymously.
They sit, digesting consequential lines of code,
the only voice, the library lift, whose empty words
soliloquise the way below. Although surrounded,
their needs are not an open book – it’s their
screens that net the things they seem to seek
– an article with thrilling patterns of blood gasses,
some dead-end jobs; a script; a boxing
film with subtitles in Greek: but secretly, beneath
the hiss of circulating air, the chirp of mice,
the bossy chat of nagging keys on boards,
a dozen essays, letters, poems, maybe
get composed. A parka-ed man, grey beard,
awaits the lift’s return, and looks around
at faces that recompose their blank unyielding
stares. The aircon clears away the dust –
the faint decay of paper, and the death of cells.