A Heart in Any Book

Dorothy Koppelman

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.

Main Location:

Tarrytown, NY, USA