Whitechapel libary

How often I went in for warmth and a doze

The newspaper room whilst my world outside froze

And I took out my sardine sandwich feast.

Whitechapel  Library, Aldgate East.

And the tramps and the madman and the chattering crone.

The smell of their farts could turn you to stone

But anywhere, anywhere was  better than home.


The joy to escape from family and  war.

But how can you have dreams?

You’ll end up on the floor.

Be like your brothers, what else is life for?


You’re lost and you’re drifting, settle down, get a job.

Meet a nice Jewish girl, work hard, earn a few bob.

Get married, have kids; a nice home on the never

and save for the future and days of rough weather.


Come back down to earth, there is nothing more.

I listened and nodded, like I knew the score.

and early next morning I crept out the door.


Outside it was pouring.

I was leaving forever.



I  was finally, irrevocably done with this scene,

The trap of my world in Stepney Green.

With nowhere to go and nothing to dream.


A loner in love with words, but so lost,

I wandered the streets, not counting the cost.


I  emerged out of childhood with nowhere to hide

when a door called my name

And pulled me inside.


And being so hungry I fell on the feast.

Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East.


And my brain explodes when I suddenly find

an orchard within for the heart and the mind.

The past was a mirage I’d left far behind


And I am a locust and I’m at a feast.

Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East.


And Rosenberg also came to get out of the cold

To write poems of fire,  but he never grew old.

And here I met Chekov, Tolstoy, Meyerhold.

I entered their worlds, their dark visions of gold.


The reference library, where my thoughts were to rage.

I ate book after book, page after page.

I scoffed poetry for breakfast and novels for tea.

And plays for my supper. No more poverty.  .

Welcome young poet, in here you are free

to follow your star to where you should be.


That door of the library was the door into me.


And Lorca and Shelley said  “Come to the feast.”

Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East.


Bernard Kops

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