Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 218: National Library, Edinburgh

The Optimism of Youth

She sits in the reference room,
high domed, lined with books.
Silent, except for the turn
of a page, a reader’s breath,
the laying down of spectacles
on a brown wooden desk.

I gather my papers,
buckle leather satchel,
step into an empty street
that hides its grime
under layers of white.

Flakes swirl and dance.
Crossing the road she waits
for a number twenty seven bus
that will never come. Waits
in this magical moment,
silver from head to toe.

I stand in a winter cathedral
filled with flight of owl,
feather vaulted, wing swept.
Library windows, obsidian dark,
turn outwards. Lamp filtered light
sheds pale gold down a long aisle.

Soft fur drapes parapets
and lintels. Movement
ghosts over pavements,
faded footstep tracery.
Star webs hang on lashes,
stick to her hair and coat.

Powder flurries glitter, sparkle.
The city is mine. I take pleasure
walking in the middle of the road.
Go peacefully towards the altar
of unpolluted nothingness.

Alison Barr

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