by Thomas Davis
He walked into the dark, high, empty room
And moved into the labyrinth of racks
Until, at last, the winter cold so sharp
His breath flowed white then disappeared in air,
He reached the shelf beside the ancient tomb
Of some forgotten king, the zodiac
Portrayed above a dimly painted harp,
And took a book in hand with tender care.
The darkness seemed to dance with wisps of light
As, walking through the stacks, he seemed to grow
As shadows leapt before him on the floor.
He seemed a shadow, like reflections deep
In Plato’s cave where shadows thought that night
Is all there is—that what their minds could know
Was real and true in spite of how the door
Of waking opened only in their sleep.
He left the racks and put the massive book
Upon a marble table, struck a match
And lit a candle placed beside a jar of ink
And took an old black pen and set the quill
Upon rich velum, in his eyes a blazing look
Of fire, as if his mind could swiftly snatch
His blood and flesh and make his true self shrink
To strong, honed words shaped by his flawless skill.
For thirty years his pen had moved his hand
And bled his life into the book, each day
His writing draining life from who he was
Into the words that crawled from page to page
As pages seemed to magically expand
Each time he walked through stacks and made his way
To sit down at the table as the buzz
Of life wrote songs that made his spirit age.
As words flowed from his pen, his hair grew white,
And in his heart the burdens placed by years
Wrapped tight against the beating of the drum
That let him be the poet that he wished to be.
The pages glowed and danced as if the plight
Of humans and their lives were only fears
That scattered when the words began to strum
Their shining lives into eternity.
His hands began to shake. His wrinkles spread
Across his face and hands. He felt so old
The thought of living yet another day
Seemed heavier than what his heart could bear.
He sighed inside the darkness, closed the dread
That emanated from the words that told
The story of the love that rises fey
Into the human self, our spirit’s prayer—
And as the book’s dark cover slowly closed,
The book’s soft light lit up the poet’s flesh,
Long years fled from his pain-filled, reddened eyes
And, in a moment, time reversed its flow.
He got up, made himself calm, strong, composed,
Walked to a rope, pulled, let the daylight’s fresh,
Sweet light spill from the winter’s cold blue skies
Into the darkness, on the book’s soft glow,
Then turned and took the book into his hands
And walked through racks so filled with endless books
They seemed to never end, the evidence
Humanity still lives, thinks, feels, and sings.
Around him whispered time’s ephemeral sands;
He reached the last, cold shelf and heard the rooks
Of spring alive in ancient forests dense
With life before there were lost graves for kings.
Note: This poem follows the conventions of an octave, but expands that convention to eight stanzas.