Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

A Promiscuity of Spines

Patrick Chapman
From Prairie Schooner, Vol. 85, No. 4 (Winter 2011)

You have a synecdoche dream.
“One day, my dear, it would be sweet;
It would be very fine indeed, one day,
If all your books and mine
Were stacked against the future,
Packed on the same set of shelves
Under the same star-proof ceiling
Somewhere with a mountain
And maybe a lake.”
My Barnes against your Hoban;
Your Mitford on my Matheson—
I get the picture. Good. It’s good
And fitting that this should be so. But
There’s one thing.
There’s just one thing.
I promise that I will not be put out
If among your books I find
A dedication from the past, from
Someone wholly unlike me
But close to what you’d had in mind
Once, before you changed it
Or he changed;
Long before I came to be
Even half a bookmark in your week,
Let alone a finger lightly touching
Yours between the second glass of wine
And everything.
But you may take exception if you like,
To the Miller and its “velvet kitten kiss”
For who would welcome that among her Penguins?
That one’s gone, the one who wrote those words;
Was gone before her nib was even wet. Off to be
Outstanding in the snow. And yours are gone.
I do not mind their traces and their names;
I do not mind their strokes, their wit, their style,
Flat against the grain.