David Lewis Paget
The Book On The Topmost Shelf - Poem by David Lewis Paget
My uncle lived in a big old house
At the end of Mayfair Drive,
With thirteen rooms and a library,
Whilst he was still alive.
But he jumped one day from the second floor
And he hit the ground so hard
That his blood spread out like a pair of horns,
There in his own front yard.
We didn't know why he had to jump,
It wasn't a lack of cash,
His health was good, but before he jumped
He'd broken out in a rash,
The maid had brought him his morning tea
Had watched him put back a book,
Up on the topmost shelf it went
And he'd said to her, ‘Don't look! '
The rash spread quickly under his arms
With pustules down in the groin,
The doctor said at the autopsy
That one was shaped like a coin.
‘You'd swear that there was a devil's head
Imprinted there in his blood,
I've never seen anything like it since
And I hope that I never should.'
But my father moved us into the house
Now, with his brother gone,
He locked us out of the library
But went in there on his own.
There were shelves and shelves of books in there
And one on the topmost shelf,
The maid had whispered, ‘You'd best beware! '
But he took it down himself.
I noticed he wore his patent gloves
Whenever he went in there,
I peeped in through a crack in the door
And saw him stand on a chair,
The book was old, had a mouldy look
For the leather was turning green,
It looked like a fungus, taken root,
And the whole thing looked unclean.
As days went by I began to hear
Some babble behind the door,
And incense came in a steady stream
Out from a crack by the floor,
My father didn't come out for meals
His voice was becoming hoarse,
He'd take a tray at about midday
But never a second course.
The maid resigned on the first of June
She said that she saw his face,
Was shivering uncontrollably
And muttering, ‘Loss of grace! '
The cook took both of us under her wing
And swore that she'd see us fed,
But wouldn't come out of her tiny room
At dusk, she'd ‘rather be dead! '
The fire broke out in the library
On a Sunday, after Mass,
I caught a glimpse of my father then,
His face was as green as grass,
The shelves and the books had grown a mould
And it spread all over the floor,
I knew I had to get out of there
And ran right out of the door.
My father leapt from the window then
Came crashing down in the drive,
I knew before I got close to him
He couldn't have been alive.
Two horns spread out from the place his head
Had crumpled into the ground,
But these were horns of a green fungi
Like the book on the shelf he'd found.
They quarantined us around that house
And came with chemical sprays,
‘This fungus seems to be hard to kill,
It's going to take us days! '
They checked the wreck of the library,
I even went in myself,
With everything burnt to a crisp, still lay
A book on the topmost shelf!
14 July 2014
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