“the essays gathered here collectively examine the ways in which a poem can travel across continents & years between poets and readers of different ages and (…) how these readers (sometimes themselves also poets) can understand and speak back.”
Karen Leeder, Flaschenpost, a special edition of German Life and Letters, 2007
If you could climb a ladder with no end
would you find yourself here? In the upper stacks
of the Periodicals Room? Turning, a woman
with whispered hair wrinkles her forehead
as she shelves books back-to-back, the way a mother might
frame photographs: careful to see she doesn’t
crease the corners; checking
that the inks don’t fade.
This collection is her
pride & joy. This room: her message in a bottle
encoded in these alphabetized walls, then sealed and stowed
away in stacks, her life measured in reams
holding the voices of the past. Preserved to last.
How long before she too
has a dusty spine and threadbare seams,
a coffin-cover that keeps pristine
her own story, now far too faint to read?
Ages have passed since she has seen
anything like the girl with crumpled chestnut hair, skin brighter
than the yellow tint of time, who wanders in here
to half-disrupt antiquity, flick through dust-speckled silence
with intriguing eyes looking for German Life & Letters
Instead she finds
washed up on this cold coast
a poem in herself;
a living, breathing Flaschenpost.