Paperback Promise

He traces life in fading dates
Inscribed with careful pencil strokes
In corners of the title page
Of paperbacks in rows and rows
Of shelves that make his treasury.

He got this from a cornershop,
And this one from a leaving friend,
And that one was a birthday gift,
And all of these he bought through post,
Before the times of online stores.

We find a book or two or three
For every week for fifty years.
He turns to me – a smile – and asks,
“You’ll make me into one of these?”
I dab the smudging date and nod.

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