Poem For The Hartford Public Library

February 28, 2013 — 0


The Hartford Public Library. Photo courtesy of WebJunction.



There was a clearing, a readiness for first bells,

an opening for the outpouring.  A hand was raised:

How much of the past would have to be overlooked?

He stings, he bites, he is absolutely convinced, and all the time

he figures himself as the heedless butterfly that flutters

over the margin of the pages.  Lizards bask in the walls,

orange trees in flower and fruit together, the berries of grapes

already flushed with color and growing tight.

I repented of my resolve to leave here, in which everything is meant

for you and nothing need be explained. 

The poem is the cry of its occasion, I said, part of the reverberation.

What is this house if not of the sun?  The shirt of fire

was ready for the wearing.  In place of “I promise to” we may have

“I shall,” and yet to learn something new from this —

how inexact, fluid and submersible instead of a bed of flat ground.

A million words a year into the one book I never thought I’d write.

Every night they could read it,

take a week to understand it,

longer to ever believe it.

Just one example, then:

To the worm the corpse is a pleasant sight.

He learns from it that greatness once existed.

Never touching, we would never make a thing.

I repented of my resolve to leave here.  I dressed, strolled slowly

up the stony path between vineyards in the sunspeckled shade of the olives,

once possible and thus possible again, never quite sure

what I’m missing.




I had the honor of speaking at the Hartford Public Library in Hartford, Connecticut, earlier this week.  I arrived a few hours early and wandered the stacks of books.  This is a “found poem” — a poem I “wrote” while there, using only words and phrases from ten books I chose randomly off the shelves.  (For a list of books sampled, see below.) I recited the poem as part of my talk on the future of the public library system.


SOURCES (All from the Hartford Public Library)

Secret Gardens, by Alan Toogood

As We Were, by E.F. Benson

The Wallace Stevens Journal, Volume 36, #2

How To Do Things With Words, By J.L Austin

Untimely Meditations, by Nietzsche

Will The Circle Be Unbroken, By Studs Turkel

Troy And Its Remains, by Dr. Henry Schliemann