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The Poetry of Bookshelves

Hassan Tahir Latif

It seems that the spell that was initially cast over us when we first confronted our confinement has been lifted and the carefully crafted illusion permeated with scents of spring flowers and banana breads has been shattered. In their wake, an unsettling feeling has made its home, compounded by Covid cases that are no longer statistics, but friends, family and acquaintances. An inexplicable, yet at the same time easily identifiable, fear has found its place in the very marrow of our bones.

The past few weeks have deepened this sense of unease. More and more people succumb to illness and others to hatred that is many centuries old. Birds are merely simple creatures again, all magic gone—they’re no longer carrying my messages through portals to other realms. I almost find their chirping an unbearable racket now. Even the sky, once a forget-me-not-blue, is layered with dust that tangibly engulfs us all.

Farewell to the Garden

No more sentient trees, no more smiling petunias or weeping pansies. Alas, I fear my garden has closed its doors on me. It’s just a dreary place now with overgrown grass and an unwelcome look.

Was the world ever going to heal itself? I wonder.

Yet, this is not the world I went to sleep in either. People are rising up against brutality and injustice everywhere, even as life resumes its vagaries and the virus delivers deathly blows.

I continue to stay at home, hoping to survive and following a changing world through screens. The revolution might not be televised, but it’ll be streamed for sure.

The sun is unbearable now and my dreams and thoughts float somewhere up in the air, out of my reach. Mad Hatters and Red Queens abound. I guess we never left the Rabbit Hole.

As I lay lost in my summer reveries, I find solace in my books. Recently, I’ve taken to creating short verses from the titles of books. Here are a few:


Meditations in Other Rooms

(yield) Other Wonders

(the) Beloved (remains)

The Duke in his Domain


The Little Prince

(draws) Odd Circles

Strange Pilgrims (on) the

Underground Railroad


I’m not here to give a speech

Find Me (and)

Call Me by Your Name


Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime

Desire, Fame (and) a Cup of

Sake beneath the Cherry Trees


Leviathan Wakes

(and in) Babylon’s Ashes

(forges) New Kings

of the World

  1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

  2. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

  3. Beloved by Toni Morrison

  4. The Duke in his Domain by Truman Capote

  5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  6. Odd Circles by Afshan Shafi

  7. Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez

  8. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

  9. I’m Not Here to Give a Speech by Gabriel García Márquez

  10. Find Me by André Aciman

  11. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

  12. Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde

  13. Desire by Haruki Murakami

  14. Fame by Andy Warhol

  15. A Cup of Sake beneath the Cherry Trees by Yoshida Kenkō

  16. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

  17. Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

  18. New Kings of the World by Fatima Bhutto


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