Books

February 20, 2018

In folio 32v, Jesus sits, not on the Throne of Heaven,
but on an ordinary blue kitchen chair. He’s barefoot
and holding a book. In principio erat verbum;
in the beginning was the Word. His hair, blond
plaits ending in Celtic twists. He’s framed,
not by angels, but by farmhouse peacocks.
You can almost hear their unworldly squawks.
On other pages, we see books brandished by angels
instead of flaming swords. Or clutched to the chests
of young boys. St. Matthew is holding his gospel
like a treasure, all silver and gold, delicate tracings
on the bindings. Imagine a world where books
were scarce. Where copying was done by human hand.
Where the word itself was sacred.

In our time, it’s a rush of too much: pixelated images,
the blather of television, the constant stream of the internet.
With such a torrent, nothing is important; all of it blends
and whirls. While outside my window, a blackbird
is singing, its clear six notes the only sound.
They pierce me like nails. He might be saying
Listen, listen, listen. He might have flown down
to remind me that, more than anything,
my job is to pay attention.