• Elizabeth Smither
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A wild book    

for Antigone Kefala, who rescued me after a disastrous argument with a publisher and has since become a dear friend


After a day of dreadful disorder

you offered me a bed and a meal

and afterwards an art book.


The bed your mother had slept in

that held her body’s curve

like a large cat in the quilt


the meal: chicken with a whole lemon

filling the cavity and vanishing

into disorder’s canyons. Later


after the dishes were cleared and washed

in your lounge’s two matching armchairs

you laid on my lap a large art book.


Night was falling but the day’s darkness

was countered by a shield, this heavy book

whose pages I turned, reverently


(thinking of the chicken, the hospitality, the bed)

hardly registering the art at first but careful

to correctly turn the pages. What wonder


that the covers could support such culture

that it did not burst out and spill

all over the carpet. What wild shadows


trapped in interiors and gardens

(under the lilies), what masks, what portents

in a jug, a flower. What was the book saying?


Before I reached the end — slices of life cut through

by each now knife-edged page — a calm

(it might have the page of ‘The Scream’)


dissolved the bed and the chicken, your fine

conversation which calmed everything, and the book

on my lap was reverently shut again


while outside, when darkness fell and stars

like the numbered pages came to glow

the peace of a wild book descends.