The Book Collector

1. First Edition

Strange that I authenticate a work
Not by the brilliance of its content

But by the errors of the printer’s hand
As a letter is lost or jumbled

In the groaning print works.
The flaw. The mistake. The error

Of judgement and oversight;
The missed detail and botched

Sentence that runs into the page gutter
Like a thought that was never finished;

The missing apostrophe and comma.
All the things that went astray

In the process of passing the thing
From one hand to another.

2. In The Library of Lost Objects

The words settle on the page,
For the first time, like insects

Fixed on their pins in a dusty museum.
Never before seen in the world.

A new thing, an order of words captured
And reinstated from the day’s flux and insistence,

A sleight-of-hand trick that holds the world back
For a heart-beat…

Holds. Holds…


And then they are passed out into the city,
Scattered to the corners like ragged confetti,

Stacked in market stalls beside postcards and love letters,
Lined like foot soldiers in toppling bookcases;

The unwanted gift or capricious purchase,
Discarded, misplaced, boxed up, forgotten,

Used to keep the wind from the chimney,
Shelved absently in the library of lost objects

Waiting for us to find them.

3. Inscription

And this one does somehow. Dog-eared
from use, weathered, ossified, organic,

surviving the memory loss and detritus,
the grinding entropy and metamorphosis.

Nothing much to look at, water damaged,
it finds its way to me in this haphazard thrift shop

among the tattered paperbacks and half-price
cookery manuals, the remaindered

astrologies with their outdated prognostications,
the promises of love that never happened.

My Dearest James, in this pages we can be
together. Let us meet here in the white spaces

between one word’s ending and another’s beginning,
Love Kate. December, 1907.

4. Books

The weight of books. Their bulk
And physical space; how they pull

Downwards in the hand
Like a plumb-line sighted at the ground.

The shape and texture of thought, folded
And folded again like the lung’s tennis-court of flesh.

Mind’s fingerprint and after image.
All that we’re remembered by when we’re finished.

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