From the collection published in 2016, Enough For a Book.


These books with sun-faded spines
bought long ago
deemed essential
wait in the semi-darkness
of archives no one visits. If the building burned down
would anyone miss a volume
published fifty years ago
entitled History of Mankind
as if there could be such a thing.
One less copy of this book in the world. What result?
Ask that student emerging from the building
across the way there
in gym shorts barelegged in
February pouring down rain
and see what she says.


6 thoughts on “Archive

  1. Your poem conjures up a memory I have of studying on the top floor of the university library when I was an undergrad. The shelves were stacked with vintage books and I never once saw anyone other than me take a book from the shelf. I thought to myself about the craftsmanship of the bindings, of the leatherworking, just the investment of money that had been made in these books 50, 100, more years ago and how now they were just taking up space. It struck me as sad which was why I kept going back to that floor of the library to study – well, that and the peaceful solitude.

    • Yes, I have felt the same way, that someone long ago felt it important to write, and then someone else to publish it and with resources that were more scarce in the past, paper, ink and so on being expensive, and the finishes of the books. No paperbacks. And now, years later, all of that effort and thought, disregarded. The same thing with buildings, clothes, you name it. Something meant to be used and not being used – that is very sad.

  2. Wearing flip-flops too no doubt (OK my daughter and I saw two of the local feral cats rolling around in the snow this afternoon…so humans are not the only ones who have no concept of the weather)
    I always feel that books have a life and sprit, and it’s sad (as Laura noted) when they are not opened and read. (K)

    • When I first saw your comment I had the idea you were going to say the cats were wearing flip flops and that was going to put me over the edge! Then I had to laugh even more at the idea of the cats doing their version of silly outdoor weather behavior. As for the books, yes, and it is a tangible reminder that all of us, and our ideas, eventually fade. But, on the other hand, we don’t know who read the books, what they might have done with the knowledge, and how it endures, either, and I am sure in some way it did. There is always that to remember, nothing is wasted, in the end, but returns.

      • I would not put it past those cats to be wearing flip flops! My daughter passes by the two lots where they hang out as often as she can and is quite attached to them.
        I like that idea of the knowledge gained from a book keeping it alive.

        • One time I read that any spoken word or sound will last forever as sound waves go on into the infinite. I have loved that idea (I hope it’s true) and I like to think that even reading silently does the same thing, in some kind of way, so the book never dies, if someone has read it.

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