Oxford

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 28, 2018

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Submitted: September 28, 2018

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The hope of accuracy we bring to such tasks is
crazy, heartbreaking
—orange tickets fed through
thin lips and then returned, expelled, an exhale into my waiting
hand. What colour were the streets? Beige, cobblestone, wet with rain, water
pooling in sinkholes of uneven ground. A door opposite St Mary’s

Church – heavy wood, with a lion carved into its face, and I ran
my fingers over the peaks and dips of his mane and eyes, nose
and mouth. Two fawns, both gold, carrying the overhang
on their backs. A lamppost—the lamppost—planted not in snow-

covered soil, but in wet stone. Students shouldering backpacks, pushing
past tourists to get inside stone libraries; the sounds of rustling
paper, fingers typing, hushed voices. Native tongues speaking oaths
not to steal, damage, deface. Agoraphobic books – spines and pages
trembling at the thought of crossing the library’s threshold. A hazy skyline
broken by spires, softened by fog. Stone faces with curly hair, curly beards,
unyielding eyes and skin. Miles and miles and miles and miles of books

at Blackwells – five stories high, poetry section in the middle, tucked
in the corner. I remember stretching up on my tiptoes to reach the top
shelf, skimming Wordsworth and Plath – was there an unlit fireplace,
a green armchair? A red door leading into the Quaker Meeting House,

and squeaky stairs leading upstairs, and hush, hush as we took our tea breaks
halfway through class. And Regent’s Park College – one of the smallest,
with three—or was it four?—long oak tables, straight-backed chairs, three
lunch options to choose from; small courtyard, ivy creeping up stone walls,
meal bell waiting to be rung, tortoise races between other colleges. Fairy lights
strung over cobblestone streets, aching feet, mildew-splattered pages
in four-quid books, pink magnolia tree on High Street, more cycles
than trees lining streets, beer foam moustaches, the Bird and the Baby,
long strides, wet streets, wet feet, long nights, white walls, cold hands and warm
breath—and no list could hold what I wanted, for what I wanted was every
last thing, every layer of speech and thought, stroke of light on bark
or walls, every smell, pothole, pain, crack, delusion, held still and
held together—radiant, everlasting.

*NOTE: The two italicized portions of the poem are quoting Alice Munro's epilogue of Lives of Girls and Women.


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