Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry by Dorothy Koppelman

I wrote “A Heart in Any Book” thinking of a person who had affected me very much when, as a young child, I was taken to visit her. I knew that in later years she did not accept visitors. I wrote this in 1949, when Bess was quite old, and I was still young.     —Dorothy Koppelman


A Heart in Any Book

On the banks of a river that flows open and wide,

In an old country town, in a quiet brown house,

There are books in glass cases, books on high shelves

There are faded Daguerrotypes to be held to the light

By a tender rememberer of old youth and old beauty.


That's the Public Library of Tarrytown, New York

And old Bess Brodhead is still the main librarian,

Even though she sleeps now for a while in the afternoon

Upstairs, away from the books, in her own old room.


If I come young, Bess, to see you there at home,

If I come looking, Bess, to find out more about you,

Will you see the world in me Bess, that you knew long ago,

Or will it all be different and will I frighten you?


I have a longing Bess, to see you now and yet I'm afraid to go,

I'm afraid I'll bring a noise with me that you won't want to hear,

I'm afraid you'll be so quiet and I won't understand

Just what to do to please you now, now that you've grown old.


But I've grown older too, Bess, since the last time we met

And I can remember with pleasure and regret

Certain youthful follies of the Spring.


If both of us together see the Hudson flowing by,

And we take from the shelves the old books you've always cared for,

Feel the brown old leather bindings

Touch the pages with respect,

Even see the new books as belonging there with you,

Won't there be new smiles Bess,

Won't you be happy that l am come to see you?


All along the Hudson, Bess, there are small towns nestling,

And there are books and women just like you,

From the windows of their houses women watch the water, watch the children while they play,

Some memories are hidden and some are had in books,

There are books in every heart, Bess,

And a heart in any book.