Book Poem By Robert Pinsky
Its leaves flutter, they thrive or wither, its outspread
Signatures like wings open to form the gutter.
The pages riffling brush my fingertips with their edges:
Whispering, erotic touch this hand knows from ages back.
What progress we have made, they are burning my books, not
Me, as once they would have done, said Freud in 1933.
A little later, the laugh was on him, on the Jews,
On his sisters. O people of the book, wanderers, anderes.
When we have wandered all our ways, said Raleigh, Time
Shuts up the story of our days—beheaded, his life like a story.
The sound bk: lips then palate, outward plosive to interior stop.
Bk, bch: the beech tree, pale wood incised with Germanic runes.
Enchanted wood. Glyphs and characters between boards.
The reader’s dread of finishing a book, that loss of a world,
And also the reader’s dread of beginning a book, becoming
Hostage to a new world, to some spirit or spirits unknown.
Look! What thy mind cannot contain you can commit
To these waste blanks. The jacket ripped, the spine cracked,
Still it arouses me, torn crippled god like Loki the schemer
As the book of Lancelot aroused Paolo and Francesca
Who cling together even in Hell, O passionate, so we read.
Love that turns or torments or comforts me, love of the need
Of love, need for need, columns of characters that sting
Sometimes deeper than any music or movie or picture,
Deeper sometimes even than a body touching another.
And the passion to make a book—passion of the writer
Smelling glue and ink, sensuous. The writer’s dread of making
Another tombstone, my marker orderly in its place in the stacks.
Or to infiltrate and inhabit another soul, as a splinter of spirit,
Pressed between pages like a wildflower, odorless, brittle.