‘I’m your new book!’

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‘Hullo!’ says the book.

‘Have we been introduced?’ I say.

‘I’m your new book!’

‘But I haven’t finished the last one yet,’ I say.

‘Believe me, it’s finished,’ says the book. ‘Utterly.’

‘How can you tell?’

‘I can tell.’

‘So it really is finished?’ I say.

‘Well of course not completely, no, not done, not completed, not in a published sense, no. But to all intents and purposes, yes, it’s done.’ The book looks at me. ‘You are done. So I thought I’d come round and say hi and introduce myself and see what you’re up to.’

‘Finishing the book,’ I say.

‘Can we please forget the book?’ the book says. ‘It’s over. Yes, of course there is a poem here and a poem there and the odd comma and unconscious reference to Larkin to take out, but I promise you, you’re done.’

‘You’re sure?’

‘I’m sure.’

‘So what now? How do I know you are the new book and not some bollocks interloper?’

‘You don’t,’ says the book, holding contact with my eyes. ‘That’s the beauty of it. You could be half way through me before you realise I am something else. Or you ditch me forever. It won’t be wasted though. Nothing ever is. Think about that novel you started.’

‘You know about that?

‘I know everything,’ the book says, smiling.

‘That was years ago,’ I say.

‘But think about what you learned,’ the book says.

‘Are you poems?’ I say. ‘Or something else?’

‘Not saying,’ says the book. ‘Could be. Could be both. Who knows?’

‘I wasn’t really planning-‘

Don’t plan,’ says the book.

‘But I’m not ready,’ I say.

‘You will never be ready,’ the book says.

‘Never?’

‘Never.’

‘Have I started you?’

‘You started me a while ago, if you look,’ the book says. ‘If you care to,’ it says.

‘Where? Give me a clue.’

‘You know I can’t tell you that,’ the book says. ‘You have to work that bit out for yourself. I’m sorry. That’s the deal.’

‘What, nothing, not even a note?’

‘Not even a note. All I can tell you is, it’s going to be fine, and it won’t be what you thought. won’t be what you thought. See you in a few months.’

‘Where are you going? You’ve only just arrived.’

‘I don’t know about the others,’ the book says, ‘but my working methods are a bit, shall we say, different.’

‘Can I come with you?’

‘Where I am going you do not want to come,’ the book says. ‘Learning that is the making of it. The making of me, I mean. Of us.’

‘How long will it take?’

‘I have no idea,’ the book says. ‘And neither do I care.’

 

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