Sundays, patrons dream on comfy sofas
in the basement of the central library.
They snuffle under pristine copies
of The Singapore Story. They slump
over thick piles of shojo manga, their tresses
obscuring the off-white, tragic, right-to-left pages.
Caught in the boat of her mother’s lap, one
clutches a sail of coloured cloth threaded
with magic names – Apple, Ball, Cat –
soft spells raining over her from cloud-height.
Lost to the world, two schoolboys mount dragons,
their sister falling in love over and over with vampires,
their father looking up Things to Do in the Maldives.
Never brighter than with four eyes buried in a book,
they used to say of me. Now it is my turn
to surrender a child to different skies. She
speeds at once to the Children’s Tree House,
straight to a favourite author’s latest tome.
It will keep her up for hours at home.
She will nod off the next day through Math class
and suffer the sighs of grownups concerned
about her numerate, non-figurative future. Tomorrow
will call its debts in soon enough. For now we borrow
new lives to live by: gods, heroes, lovers, monsters,
siren songs against the daily dark. Shivers in the spine,
heart-gulp endings, the crisp crackle and sapling scent
of fresh pages pried open for the first time... My daughter
pulls at my sleeve, wakes me. She warns me not to snore,
people are staring, the librarian is getting cross.
Years, I spent reading her to bed, watching her smile
and swing at giants in her sleep, until once upon a time
she finished a book on her own and never stopped.
Now she has the key to the cosmos, no longer needs
my literary patronage, except the spare allotment
on my library card. So Pang gives way to Pullman.
This is how you know you’ve done the best you can.
17 March 2014 20:41 hours