Thursday, January 20, 2011


“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

(now confined)

Instead she finds

washed up on this cold coast

a poem in herself;

a living, breathing Flaschenpost.