The Penguin Book of Contemporary Verse;

the cover is mustard yellow,

like the bookshop smelling pages

tinged with ochre at the edges.

It was owned by an Anne

who scrawled in blue and black ink

and coloured in all the o’s

on the title page.


Not every poem is annotated;

she favoured Yeats, Auden,

Larkin and Thomas.

She marked the rhyme schemes

and double lined the oxymoron

‘murderous innocence’.

One annotation at the bottom

of page fifty draws my attention,

time and time again.

It is a poem by Binyon

about burning leaves

and Anne wrote the following:


‘Not just the burning of leaves

but also leaving a past behind,

best not remembered.’


Of all of her comments

this is the most detailed,

there is nothing else like it

hidden within the fragile pages.


The book is a second edition,

reprinted in the 1960s,

so I wonder if Anne was a student;

if the ticked poems

in the contents

were studied in class

or atop her duvet,

sat cross legged and hunched.

I wonder why Binyon’s leaves

resonated with her the most.

Perhaps like all of us,

she found peace in poetry;

she found peace in words

which spoke the deepest secrets

of her heart,

but the words were not hers

to keep, so after each poem she read,

she let go of every secret

and anxiety;

watched them drift like

liquid bubbles through an open window.


I found Anne in a two-storey

secondhand shop.

She was wedged on a rickety bookshelf

past doll houses,

playstation games

and record players.

It was the first book

I pulled from the poetry section

so I’m beginning to believe

in destiny, divine intervention

and the stars – all three

because I was born with eggs

in my hands and I’m slowly

finding more than one basket.


I’ve decided to write

my name below Anne’s

and annotate

some of the poems left blank

but not all.

I’ll save the rest for the next soul

who happens upon the mustard yellow book

in the secondhand shop of my choosing,

and perhaps they’ll write a poem

about it too.



© Kristiana Reed 2018

2 thoughts on “Secondhand

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