Thief of Time

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)

I sprinted through every book
you wrote, every paragraph,
line and word, whole pages skipped
with barely a second look.
Oh, you were sharp, kind, and wicked!
You always made me laugh.

Then I forgot all about you.
That stuff has its limits, I guess
or else I needed the friction
of real life to work through
even (perhaps especially) in fiction.
Pure fantasy is a mess

yet most stories lose their power.
It's no one’s fault: a writer
is a kind of friend or guide
who walks with you an hour
or two. When your paths divide
you move on a little lighter.

So, it should’ve been no surprise
books I used to treasure
would fade or even change
or that I’d barely recognise
myself in them. But it’s strange.
You're not who you were.

First published in About Larkin, the journal of the Philip Larkin Society. The form (and subject) owes something to Larkin’s poem ‘A Study of Reading Habits’.

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