No Disposals


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John Allison

a book in the hand...

in October 2020 the National Library declared it would be
‘rehoming’ 640 000 overseas-published books

there are approximately 8 000 bricks in an average house

if books were bricks we could build eighty houses
and that would be useful

but they are not bricks, each book already is a home
not of straw nor sticks nor bricks

but a House of Words
standing on its foundations as deep as the world

and in each house a passageway
with all its doors leading through into other places


here comes the Big Bad Wolf who huffs and puffs
and counts the cost of housing books

who will fluster and bluster at those 640 000 houses
and might just succeed

but the words in the wind will not stop murmuring
they are birds they are autumn leaves

they are kites jigging and jagging
tugging at the limits of our hopes and possibilities

they are rising mist at dawn
still hanging about until the cows come home

they are clouds in the sky, and clouds are always
right for the conditions

they are our future’s seed and spore
adrift like golden motes in that lovely evening light

they are human voices
that long after the wolf is gone will haunt us still

imagine the inhabitants of 640 000 haunted houses
as birds of passage passing through...


there are those who might think a book is passé
that the tablets of the lore

will now suffice
but a book converses tenderly with our fingers

seeps through our skin
its pages and our minds entangled like mycelia

amongst the eloquent root-tips of language

to hold a book firmly in your hands is not at all
like holding a brick

you can heft a brick but a book will heave you
into another space altogether

it is not just another brick in the wall

it is the way out beyond the wall

Allison by

Artist Photo
John Allison

Cold Hub recently published John Allison’s A Place to Return To (2019) and Near Distance (2020). He is currently preparing his Collected Poems, for publication with Cold Hub in 2022.