Alexandria

by Bridget Collins

At the city gates they took my books
carefully, like relics; and unburdened,
I walked into the white streets, the sunlight
clear as copper, the long shadows blue.

I knew my way. The route familiar as a heart,
thinking of you. It was easy. Past the shining
dusts of the eastern quarter, the far cries
of each seller of peaches, meat and silver fish.

I walked to the library, huge and greying
in the dusk which grew towards it too. I stood
outside for a moment, the inlaid iron doors
shadowy, like the doors of death. It was getting cold.

Call it superstition. I didn’t go in.
I thought of you, and walked away, walked back
to the gates of the city, where they gave me back
copies of the books they’d taken, new parchment

smooth as skin under my fingers. Later
when I got home I imagined I heard
in that crackle of noise and fire, the colours
of the dawn next day across the sea,

where at least the sun was cool for an hour,
silent, and far enough away to be safe.