Berni Dwan – Afternoon Delight

Berni dwan head shotBerni Dwan teaches journalism, history, English literature and creative writing in Dublin. Her web site is a response to news developments and the capricious vagaries of life. This is done through satirical essays, articles and poetry. Her work has featured on RTE 1’s Sunday Miscellany, Lyric FM’s Quiet Corner, and the The only object in life that she desperately wants to own is a working time machine. Interested in the past; curious about the future; she doesn’t want to live forever; will keep putting new words in the little black book until she runs out of words. She is disenchanted with lazy and sloppy mistakes regularly heard on our primary radio stations and she can’t get her head around the fact that ghost-written sports biographies are now classed as literature. She’s a curmudgeonly old fuss pot. There’s no real harm in that, is there? Read more at her website

Afternoon Delight

My Saturday pilgrimage to the object of my love
To the blushing sarcophagus of printed matter
Starts after dinner

Get off the bus in Harold’s Cross; walk down Leinster Road
My destination – Rathmines Library, gifted to Dubliners
by altruistic Carnegie
Opened in October 1913 in the maelstrom of the Lockout
Did strikers seek refuge there to read some Marx and Engels?
Its classical façade a perfect street companion for
The pink Marrakech town hall across the road

In the semi-dark of a winter’s afternoon
Tiny wooden drawers stuffed with index cards
resemble the accoutrements of a medieval alchemist’s lair
encoded to transmute base metals to noble ones.
Or perhaps a nineteenth century tea emporium
Scented leaves newly arrived in a clipper – from the East
All are conduits to novel experiences.
Middle aged and elderly men in patched corduroy and tweed
with thinning elbows
confidently navigate a course through this sea of index cards
tales in wooden tubs
Master mariners of Dewey Decimal; milDewey Decimal
Seamlessly blending with the
Stonehenge of freestanding bookcases – Fiction A to F – Irish History
The smelly cocktail of must, dust and beeswax polish – a nasal delight –
Mingles with stale tobacco

A hushed veil envelopes mute borrowers and browsers – now clad
to pay their respects to tomes of learning; imagination; erudition
I love their heft and weight
A library ticket is my visa to centuries of ruminations; contemplations; meditations
Crossing all cultures; all religions; all nationalities
I am captivated by the date stamps displaying years of usage
This one hasn’t been borrowed since nineteen sixty eight;
Who was that person? I decide she was a stylish academic
I picture her in nineteen sixty’s clothes;
a beehive hairdo; mini skirt; white knee high boots; heavy eye makeup
Why has no one wanted it since?
Is my paper chase futile?

The Quixotic need to order a book
Is sometimes necessary
It arrives from far flung Raheny or Balbriggan.
I feel an emotional link with the last reader
I picture a young man voraciously committing tomes to memory
For discussion later in smoky bars
His eloquence will be earthy.

Sometimes I ascend the fine teak double staircase to the landing,
Momentarily glance at the William Morris stained glass window depicting ‘Literature’
Turn into the reading room to sit at a sloped wooden desk
And daydream while pretending to read

Once I even have to make an excursion to distant Pearse Street library
Another Carnegie gift; mausoleum for the head of Nelson’s Pillar
To pursue some obscure request
Wiry little working men
Stevedores on the docks perhaps
Hover around the cowboy novels
Zane Grey page turners like Sunset Pass and Robber’s Roost
Care worn women replenish their supply of Mills and Boon
Secretary Wife and Cupboard Love will be carried home in string bags
With cabbage and carrots; biscuits and bread

My only teenage post is the brown envelope with the window
Announcing my overdue notice and fine.

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