Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Thanks

The cheap, pocket paperback book
He gave me from the creaseless shelves
Of his life's lending library
Was a red-backed Penguin Classsic
In perfect condition, except
For the acidification
Of its twentieth-century
Paper-pulp pages turning beige.

No comments, no dog ears, no stains:
Had he ever read it, he read
With such reverence for the text
As fine, material object,
However cheaply mass-produced,
A Torah could not have complained.
This was no Torah. A novel
From the era of great novels,

It had pretensions to saving
Humans from their humanity,
But did not claim to speak for God
Directly, nor, as was the case
For some contemporary tales,
To be in fact spoken by God.
It was just a story, weary
Of what it felt compelled to tell.

I took it for its size, texture,
And promise of most serious
Appearance whenever spotted
Casually opened in my hand.
The author and title conveyed
Enough seriousness to warn
Even the well-read stranger off.
The volume spoke both thrift and heft.

Also, I had never read it,
Although, as with so many works,
I had heard enough about it
To pretend, with some insouciance,
That both the author and his tale
Were old acquaintances of mine,
Even though it had been a while,
And memory had slightly blurred.

I began to carry it with me,
Partly intending to read it,
Partly intending to have it
At hand when bored enough to read.
Fitfully, one page here or there,
I actually read the damn thing.
It's greasy now, stained, creased, and real.

I don't really care for it now.
I don't like the world it pretends.
I find the tone contemptuous,
Generalizing to a fault,
Mocking what the author missed
While dreaming of a great success.
He got his great success. Censors,
Grudgingly, let him slip through.

Time made a temple of his name
Throughout the land he satirized.
He sold well. He dreamed greater dreams.
He panicked and destroyed the work
He knew was nothing more than this,
The thing he made clever at first
But could not make true to the end.

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