Wherein the Book Implies Source


Wherein the Book Implies Source 

And words form the vessel by which we traverse centuries, the river
stitched across the valley’s floor, easing access.

Accession by choice. Inorganic memory.

Vellum conveys its origin: of a calf.

How like an entrance it appears, a doorway to a lighted space.
Closed, it resembles a block of beech wood.

To serve as conveyance, to impart without reciprocity.

Framing the conversation in space, immediacy fades.

The average calfskin may provide three and a half sheets of writing material.
Confined by spatial limitation, we consider scale in terms of the absolute.

The antithesis of scroll; random entry; codex.

A quaternion equalled four folded sheets, or eight leaves: sixteen sides.

Reader and read: each endures the other’s role.
Pippins prevented tearing during the drying and scraping process.

Text first, then illumination.

Once opened, the memory palace diminished.

This originally appeared in April 2014 as part of Boston Review’s National Poetry Month Celebration, and is included in The Circumference of Other, my offering in the Silver Birch Press chapbook collection, IDES, scheduled to be published on October 15.

ides front cover 92915

24 thoughts on “Wherein the Book Implies Source

      • I taught 6th grade in a low income neighborhood in Kansas. One day a charitable group brought brand new well-made dictionaries for each student in my class. In a fit of clarity I had all the kids open the books’ covers and take a deep breath. Their reactions were so worth it. “New book smell” became a saying in our classroom. As in, “That pizza smells good, but it’s not new book smell.” I need to blog that!

        Liked by 1 person

      • How wonderful! We dealt mostly in used books, and the smells were varied and mostly wonderful, ranging from rich leather, to the acidic paper of the 1940s, the particular tang of mass market paperbacks of the 60s and 70s, and the chemical odor of the newer, glossy-papered illustrated books. There’s nothing like the odor of a good, used bookstore.


  1. This evokes a lot of ambiguous emotions for me. As a long time vegetarian, I’m bothered by the fact that my books have vellum and calfskin bindings. But I also revere these ancient volumes. And yes, I love their scent and tactile qualities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who actually studied printing (alongside journalism) and thus knows way too much about the various sources of ancient writing media, I appreciated “Wherein the Book Implies Source.” Congrats on the upcoming IDES publication, only three days away!

    Liked by 1 person

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