Small Prayer in Beinecke

How we tortured nature then
To make the books we cherished so
Austerely, letting minutes go
To grow on curried pages
Smelling of incense, innocence and wine,
And painted every rib with gilt
To pacify our gilty souls,
And bound the pages up with ropes
And locked them up with heavy keys,
And how we roasted metal plates
Into a semblance of surprise
To see themselves so willfully designed,
And wrote God’s name on every plate
And nailed the plates to slabs of wood
And nailed the wood to sheets of bone
And called it all another book,
And how we broke our backs and hands
In carrying it, and ruined our eyes
In reading it, and lost our minds,
Eventually, you might not guess.
It doesn’t matter now; we knew
Our books would be the end of us.

1991