Poem — Tim Upperton

History

 

Turn the pages, slowly. Each word afloat 
on narrative’s sea, each glyph the principal 
character in its own story, each clinging on 
for dear life. A is aleph, an ox. Upside down, 
its blank, horned face blazes through millennia. 
Imagine each letter like this. Imagine 
its cursive bend and swoop the black-clad
curve of a peasant’s thigh as he bows 
among dew-weighted barley. Here, the tendril 
on the pale nape of a concubine’s neck. 
Here, the serif of a beggar-child’s bare foot. 
They cluster, they importune, they whisper
but we don’t listen to them, we turn the pages, slowly, lifted by the grand wave. A letter, a word, 
a page, a book. Smoke coils and thickens, ash 
carries on the wind, lifts and settles, and this, too, 
is history: the burning of a thousand thousand libraries.

 

Tim Upperton

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