Poem: Books

“Books” by Bil­ly Collins,
from Sail­ing Alone Around the Room

From the heart of this dark, evac­u­at­ed campus
I can hear the library hum­ming in the night,
a choir of authors mur­mur­ing inside their books
along the unlit, alpha­bet­i­cal shelves,
Gio­van­ni Pon­tano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own pri­vate coat,
togeth­er form­ing a low, gigan­tic chord of language.

I pic­ture a fig­ure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilt­ed into the wind of a book,
a man in two worlds, hold­ing the rope of his tie
as the sui­cide of lovers sat­u­rates a page,
or light­ing a cig­a­rette in the mid­dle of a theorem.
He moves from para­graph to paragraph
as if tour­ing a house of end­less, pan­eled rooms.

I hear the voice of my moth­er read­ing to me
from a chair fac­ing the bed, books about hors­es and dogs,
and inside her voice lie oth­er dis­tant sounds,
the hor­rors of a sta­ble ablaze in the night,
a bark that is mov­ing toward the brink of speech.

I watch myself build­ing book­shelves in college,
walls with­in walls, as rain soaks New England,
or stand­ing in a book­store in a trench coat.

I see all of us read­ing our­selves away from ourselves,
strain­ing in cir­cles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we fol­low across a page of fresh snow;

when evening is shad­ow­ing the forest
and small birds flut­ter down to con­sume the crumbs,
we have to lis­ten hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sis­ter reced­ing into the woods.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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