Reading History of My Heart by Robert Pinsky


Someone took this out in June 1997
then, previously, October 1996. The first
borrowing was 8 July 1987.

A heart opened and then nine years
before someone passes the shelf and stops
reaches out a hand and reads a poem.

Perhaps they start with something short
in the way poetry readers do:
The Long Branch Song with just two stanzas

‘Some days in May, little stars
Winked all over the ocean.’ No harm there
the heart could be checked out and faced.

It is the way of poetry books to commune
most with their companions as they wait
until someone steps close to their thin spines

like porcupines and inserts a hand
half-afraid of being pricked. Begins
‘One Christmastime Fats Waller in a fur coat…’



Elizabeth Smither’s latest collection of poetry is Red Shoes (Godwit: Te Mata Poet Laureate 3). Her novel, The sea between us was shortlisted for the 2004 Montana fiction award.