Bookstore Saigon

By Olga Pavlinova Olenich


Old books

left in grand abandoned rooms

inhabited by echoes and the lonely moth

that ate its way through a white history

and a brown map of Indochine

before it crawled into the yellowed pages

of a curled-up magazine

and died under a headline

that said something about war

and nothing about death.

Old books

unopened and unread

stand like tombstones on the sagging shelves

of a backstreet bookstore

and keep their illustrations to themselves.

On the counter

scattered photographs left to curl and fade.

With a sense of loss I pick one up to see

 a girl who could be Marguerite Duras

and the youth who was her Chinese lover

standing side-by-side in a crowd of people

outside some looming and important gate

that possibly survives nearby

stripped of old importance.

Silently we shuffle through this

poor substitute for the panelled library

this sad monument to a gilded time

of loud triumphs and quiet crimes

forbidden loves

that lost themselves

in the grand and crowded rooms

of hidden time.

Olga Pavlinova Olenich is a widely-published Australian poet/writer. Her poetry is included in several anthologies including 'Australian Poetry Anthology V' 2006 and 'Best Australian Poems' (Black inc. 2015)