Alex Skovron was born in Poland, lived briefly in Israel, and came to Australia aged nine. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Autographs (prose-poems, 2008), as well as a prose novella, The Poet (2005). Awards for his poetry include the Wesley Michel Wright Prize, the John Shaw Neilson Award, the Australian Book Review Poetry Prize, and for his first book, The Rearrangement (1988), the Anne Elder and Mary Gilmore awards. His novella was joint winner of the FAW Christina Stead Award for fiction. He lives in Melbourne and works as a freelance editor. His New & Selected Poems is in preparation.
Then one night the books ganged up on him. He was seated at his table in the studio-den, composing a cheque for the recent fence-repair, when an odd rapping, like muffled drummery behind his chair, a kind of tapping, caused him to cock his shoulder. The books were floating off the shelves to the floor, in random order; hundreds had already sorted themselves in steep spires. As he swivelled, stunned, watching the stacks grow higher, the bookcases empty, each steepening tower like a tottering sentry began to flow, a twitching perpendicular river, converging on his patch in the middle. There was no time to unravel the riddle – he was aghast, then horrified, distinctly, for the piles were merging. Some books had their heavy gilded spines towards him thickly, some their grinning edges – surging, swirling backbones bluntly fisted (convex or squared, many jacketed), or concave ledges viciously snapping, swaying as they listed; thousands of covers chaotically flapping, yet no chunk of any teetering creature (each mystically bracketed) likely to collapse. Cowering now, subsiding to the Persian rug, he saw the twisters lapse to a terminal dance, each obelisk in its terrible advance gave a kind of shrug, appeared to shudder forth and back, clearly readying for the final attack. Desperate by now that it must be a dream, he squeezed his eyes shut, breathed deep, then took a chance. Look! Bookcases crammed again, and quiet – no more savage parade! But flickering on the floor, its pages splayed, a single book.