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Villain, elle?

Daniel Gibbons

Selected by Katherine Aparicio, Associate Editor

I am a burning book, a book of flame:
pale letters glow on skin-thin ash
an instant as your hand crumbles cinders, same.

If a book burns in the forest, without reader or name,
Is it no book, a glob of marks?—In its pages stashed:
“I am a burning book, a book of flame!”

Can I remember Sarajevo, who to blame
for a snow of black pages, a tabernacle hammered into trash,
even for an instant as I crumble cinders, same?

Whether in Caesar’s, Theophilus’, or Omar’s name,
In the slow grace of towers crumbling under some Alexander’s lash,
I am a burning book, a book of flame.

When a human burns in the salt womb (who’s to blame?)
of history, who among us will cast the first penitent ash
from an infant’s hand that has crumbled into cinders—same?

Haunted into sterile rooms, who will sign their names?
In quiet abattoirs, over mute cries with no past—shhh . . .
“I am a burning book, a book of flame
an instant, until my hand crumbles . . . cinders . . .”

Daniel R. Gibbons, although he was a depraved, unmarried, and apostate graduate student when he wrote the poem, reports that he is much recovered. He is now a husband, a father, an English professor, and has been cobbled into as much of a Catholic as could be managed, considering the scant and mouldy materials.


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