In a Little Town Called Lost

Books stacked carelessly, haphazardly
in a dark, dingy bookshop
volumes of Shakespeare, leatherbound
gather dust and grime
among other less prestigious
second-hand literary works
this graveyard of paperbacks and hardbacks
sits in the centre
of an arse crack
of a town
gone to shit
that is badly
in need
of some culture
the bookshop owner gets most of his sales done online

the hopelessly lost
come in for a chinwag
a beer, a smoke
avid readers are rare visitors
but drop-ins by the local alcoholics, crazies, druggies
lowlives—and some close personal friends
of the bookshop owner; they’re frequent enough.

He likes a drink,
calls it a means of self-preservation.

They sit in winter next to a small plugin heater
which sits on a grey-brown carpet
by a tatty wooden desk
in a dimly lit shop front, just shy of the window
and a greyhound lies at their feet snoring
dreaming of his racing days
and the owner loves that dog more than life
but lets it shit and piss in the yard out the back
and rarely cleans up.

Like most things on this rundown highstreet
shit happens—
every other building is a curry house, a pizza place
a Chinese takeaway
actual shops are scarce
even the charity shops have closed down

every year another takeaway is in the papers
reported for rat infestations
or other hygiene breaches
and the cops are always busy
attending to violent crime, drug raids
thefts and antisocial behaviour

Above the shop
is the bookshop owner’s flat
in the living room, there’s a sea
of black plastic dustbin bags
filled with used up beer cans and wine bottles
ashtrays full of spent cigarette ends
the bathtub is brown with a thick ring of grime
where the waterline usually stops when it is full
the toilet is a crime scene with added urine puddles
the cups in the kitchen are chipped and badly washed
and yesterdays meals or takeaway boxes
are often left sat on the worktop
this place has been the scene
of many a well-meaning intervention
it’s regrettable
to watch someone go to hell like that
—sometimes I join him for a beer
I’m no saint, and I can’t preach
I ask about the books in stock
to break the monotony
we discuss poetry
He hates the work of Sylvia Plath.

He hates mine too
—we agree to differ on most things.

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