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As we grow older we become adept collectors
Of broken promises. It’s not that the world means ill,
But the world’s options grow larger
Day by day. Too much hanging around
By the likes of ourselves; and too much excitement,
Far too much excitement, by a world
That rushes headlong to embrace new recruits.

The young are beautiful and sanguine.
That’s for sure. As I was saying,
I hate that you promised me so long ago
An exceptional copy of Ptolemy’s Geographica,
The one published by Hol of Ulm
With its elaborately coloured vellum maps:
That gift to you from Prince Eugene of Savoy –

As for the 1480 book printed by Lettou of London,
I’ll let it pass. People forget, and I
Work all day in a faraway Library. But my heart
Did leap when you left the Penguin Selected
Of Yevtushenko. It smelled of campfires
And young Georgian wines: I’ve had it
Bound in vellum, like an original Jensen of Venice,

And I take it with me on long journeys,
To the Kerry mountains, to Sligo; to the sea.
Once, while reading it,
A young woman approached me, in Stuart plaid,
Claiming that her name was Larissa Fyodorovna,
That the book was of her patrimony –
I promised her the book, of course, before I fled.