‘What do you want?’ says the book.
‘Who’s asking?’ I say.
‘Me,’ says the book. ‘I am asking.’
‘What do you mean?’ I say.
‘I mean, for the book. I mean, me. What do you want? For me. It.’
‘It’s a good question,’ I say. ‘I mean, now I’m done, we’re done I mean, all I want is to sleep for a bit. And perhaps some toast, with butter.’
‘And nothing much, really. That’s it.’
‘But you must want something. Fame. Recognition. Some nice reviews wouldn’t go amiss either.’
‘Not really,’ I say. ‘I said goodbye to them a long time ago.’
‘The T. S. Eliot Prize? The Costa? Come on. Surely? It’s not like you’re not good enough.’
‘I think you have the wrong poet,’ I say. ‘Thank you, though. That was nice of you to say.’
There is a silence while the book ponders what I have just said to it.
‘What do you want then?’
‘Readers. I say. I want the people who will read it to read it, you, I mean, to know it and savour it and take it deeply into their hearts. People like Maura, Naomi, Ann, Peter, Michael, Jean. Andy. Christopher. The other Ann. The other Peter. The other Michael. Josephine. Amy. That’s it.’
‘Is everyone called Peter?’ says the book.
‘Not everyone. But nearly everyone who matters. T. S. Eliot said he only wrote for four people. And one of them was Ezra Pound. Make of that what you will.’
‘That’s hardly going to keep you in swimming pools is it?’
‘You’re asking the wrong question. Not to mention the wrong person. You’re like that woman who asked me at a party once if she should have heard of me. If you need to ask, you’re not interested.’
There is another silence.
‘It looks like we want different things,’ the book says at last.
‘It looks like we do.’