8: Books

Harvard undergrads
used to read books
on the Red Line train.

How many eyes nowadays
scan print and paper?
Virtually none.


I’ll still carry
three or four paperbacks
in my tote bag,
the poor man’s Kindle.


When I was sixteen,
I hid a copy
of The Colossus
in my jacket pocket
at Steve & Cory’s wedding.

Thirty years have passed
since I bought my first volumes of verse:
Eliot’s Four Quartets,
Rimbaud’s Illuminations,
Heaney’s Field Work.

Eliot because it was cheap,
Rimbaud because it was French,
Heaney because Mr Waldron
said he was good.

The printed page
is bread to me,
life and light,
shelter and sustenance.


Sure, I’m as guilty
as the next guy
of checking the iPhone
during a dull commute.

But there are times
at home alone
I’ll pick up a book,
an old favorite,
weathered, seasoned,
and pace from room to room
reading aloud
to the four walls,
to any muse or angel
that might be haunting me.


Wystan, Estlin, Theodore, Marianne,
you wouldn’t be the same
as lucent type on a small screen.

You’re most at home
in dead-tree editions!

I lift your pages
and kiss the verses
as the priest
kisses the Gospel.

5 thoughts on “8: Books

  1. Yes! This poem ends with a particularly vivid image.

    The bit about taking a volume to your cousin’s wedding made me smile. My brother almost got in trouble with the security guy at my cousin’s wedding reception. Brother brought a book to read as the festivities lingered into the night, and the security guy thought he had stolen the book from the venue’s library. He just couldn’t understand why anyone would bring a book to a wedding reception.

    1. oh, we readers are looked upon with suspicion from all and sundry! i remember my landlord, noting my collection of books, asking me “do you keep reading them? over and over?” well, if it’s poetry, the answer is of course yes!

  2. What a wonderful relationship with the written word! There’s nothing quite like easing a book between our fingers and balancing it in the palm of our hands as we read – is there?

    Your closing stanza is very powerful – and highly visual. It also describes (for book-lovers) the relationship that we have with with written word. Veneration for the beautifully crafted words we’re lucky enough to carry with us is something to be acknowledged and encouraged. May you long continue to peruse the word on printed pages!

    1. Anne, thank you … and an ancillary joy of books is that of browsing a wonderful old second-hand bookstore! Fortunately, immensely so, I live in a university town with many such treasure-houses (fewer than there used to be, but still a bunch!).

      By the by, I have a small chapbook of poems, self-published, that you might like to look at. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll see that you get a copy. (If not, that’s perfectly OK!)

      Thanks again for your kind, encouraging, heart-cheering words!

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