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For St Jerome
Guardian of the date-stamp and card catalogue,
keeper of knowledge, and a staff notice-board
pinned with drunks and men who lick the atlases,
go with me while I Tipp-Ex-out the bogies
and spray Glade in the newspaper section.
Curmudgeon, teach me how to smile while fining
the sinners who have lately been in hospital,
who were struck dumb by lightning, or forgot.
Teach me to bear their crumbs and bookmarks
with the fortitude for which you are not famous:
the bus tickets, postcards, rashers of bacon
and once – give me strength – a knotted condom.
Gatekeeper, watch over books on loan;
their months of purgatory spent in bath steam
or under beds. Watch over those abandoned
on bus seats or park benches. Heal the torn.
Take them back from houses with the measles.
Inform Environmental Health at once.
And teach me to work with an abrupt demeanour,
And the martyrdom of the index, which was yours;
to speak out in the silence of your feast day
whose widespread celebration is long overdue.