You Could Get Addicted to a Book Like That

Neil Rollinson

For Matthew

The ache in my leg seems worse, also
that mole on my arm, swelling a bit I’m sure.
I drift through the bookshop
reading The Family Health Practitioner.
I carry it round like a priest
muttering a benediction for himself.
The doctor won’t see me any more.
I run through the symptoms
of unpronounceable diseases,
horrors jump off the page: fibrositis,
Aids, mad cow disease,
cancer, syphilitic warts, Jesus,
syphilitic warts!
I finger my flies and lift the book
to its shelf; it is only so heavy
because there’s so much to catch.
As I turn to leave, every bone
creaks with the onset of osteoporosis.
I get scared, I think about the ones I love,
how will I tell them?
I hesitate on the doorstep;
I should go back in, make a few cross
references; might be mistaken after all –
it might be something worse.
You can get addicted to a book like that,
the woman from the health section says as I
struggle it out of the shelf again.
We’re locking up now, I’d go home
and forget all about it if I were you. So I do,
but as I limp to the bus stop
I can’t help wondering what it could be
the sales girl meant. Forget about what?