Walking across the threshold

my nose is affronted by dust and mustiness,

then underneath that vanilla extract scent comes.

The smell of old books, loved books, well-handled books,

books with broken spines and dog ears,

coffee stains on their covers

and notes from relatives:

‘Happy Birthday, love Aunt Mary’

‘Season’s Greetings, Frank! Christmas ’78’

‘To Mr Baldings, English Teacher Extraordinaire

upon your retirement.’

Love notes written in margins of epic romances,

the strict calculations of Vernians,

and the underlined and highlighted words

in a thousand textbooks read by a hundred thousand students

working towards their exams.

All books have a story,

not just the one printed on the page.