Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Scriptorium (2002)

The scriptorium of the Sixth Century
was a cold, dark and brute room
where copyists inked their ecstasies
amid the bitterest rigors—reeking
sheepskin, claw-hand so carefully
moving across the page, each line
a curragh voyage from I to Thou.
Each copy of a book exacted a
raw chunk of someone’s life.
Nothing’s changed though
conditions have much improved:
I sit in an easy chair in the soft
augers of the early day, bright lamp
over one shoulder, cup of coffee
to my left; but it’s still pen in
hand and the next blank line
in this journal, embellishing
a text whispered in my ear
by one of those dirty angels
gone to dust long ago
when from so little came
ineffably more: voices like
a soundboard rising
from an invisible floor,
from a distant, gnashing shore.
The huts of the copyists
were built that way,
according to the lines of
the more ancient Poet’s House,
rooms of total darkness
where the master inscribed
all history in the
ears of his craftsmen,
line by patient line,
tale by tale,
life after life.
This hand is freighted
by a thousand older hands,
this ink an hourglass measure
of far immenser sands.


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