Rough-cut paper tells you it’s a first edi­tion and the must takes you back —
Years spent, nose down. Ink-smudges and foun­tain nibs, the romance
Of Umberto Eco and sharp-edged medi­eval scores. There’s a deep
Con­nec­tion through time to these com­munities of scribes,
Mar­ginal notes griping about aching hands and the bas­tardry of abbots.
The stitches binding ancient alman­acks weave together sea­sons,
Prac­tical planting along­side mys­ter­ious hints at magic and moons.

Some­times I have a sense that we sit at the far end of a skein
That has trav­elled from Ea-Nasir to now, and that some day soon,
The very last word to be com­mitted to a phys­ical form will be printed,
And prob­ably — sadly, inev­it­ably — by machine rather than by hand,
And not with any grand ver­mil­lion embossed Ini­tial, nor any orna­ment,
Nor inscribing the won­ders of the world for the elu­cid­a­tion of the wicked.
Even the words call to me — codex and quire, scriptorum and majus­cule.

The immensity of the written word over­whelms — the secrets it unfolds:
The broad­sheets exhorting res­ist­ance; the front page announ­cing war;
The spidery hand recording gen­er­a­tions; the flourish of a guest­book;
The passing down of closely held recipes; the decoding of dev­ast­ating plans;
the exchange of deli­cious intimacies between lovers, scrawled
on hastily folded let­ters sent through unsus­pecting post…

None of these worlds were the sum of the moments cap­tured on their pages.
In all of them, from clay to parch­ment to vellum to rags to tree pulp,
Life was more com­plex and more tedious than it appears from afar.
My wall is covered with shelves and my shelves are filled with books
And yet these words are crafted from elec­trons and light
In a pal­impsest more flimsy than the thin­nest onion­skin.