The first flash mob in Europe
Met in Rome on 24 June 2003.
300 people entered ‘Messaggerie Musicali’,
A large book and music store,
To ask its staff either for non-existent books,
Or for the most obscure books
By untraceable authors.
One flash mobber asked for a copy of the New Testament
Translated from Coptic into Latin by David Wilkins
And published in 1716 by Oxford University Press.
The book took till 1907 to sell its 500-copy print run.
It was the slowest selling book in human history.
‘Have you got it?’ the book-lover excitedly giggled,
Eager to serve the cause of surrealism and fun.
The assistant scrutinized Messaggerie’s database then said:
(In Italian) ‘It’s not coming up. I’m sorry. It’s gone.
But maybe you just missed a copy…? I’ll double check.
No, it’s gone. But you must come again.
We’re always restocking. We’ll have it in very soon.’
She smiled, an old smile to warm your hands on.
Maybe it’s the smell of books –
That crisp mustiness that mixes past and present,
Combined with the fumy glue in their bindings
That make even the most impossible dream
Seem completely achievable, a commonplace …
Just one amongst many in the rows of dream-weavers
Each with an immortal shelf-life and no sell-by date
Whose books open like butterflies for the pages to flitter,
Until something rises out, fanned by two floating minds
For the reader’s soul to lose weight as it hitches a ride
On a tandem, freewheeling through time and space.
‘WIll that be all sir? Thank you sir … Next?’