Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The last book on Earth

This may be the last book. All these books will disappear. No,
I am not prepared to make an exact prediction of when or where,
But books will cease to exist, as all things cease; eventually.
Think about it: Have you received many telegrams lately?

You can't reach the dodo by e-mail. His number is not in use.
Still, poetry may presumably outlive her younger, uglier sibling,
At least in printed form, for poets are mostly sentimental types.
Also: Some cultures or classes may hold on to their books longer

Than others. Books may become rare & prized objects to the very
Civilizations which abandon them first, while still cheaply made
And circulated in the poorest regions of the world. The truly rich
Never burn their candles for the same reasons as do the truly poor.

There will be that final book, therefore; that last book on Earth.
But in what sense? The last book printed? The last book published?
Or: The last book read, the last reading (...) Or: The last actually
Remaining book, the last book in existence, hidden among the bones

And garbage, half buried in the beige sands and gray ashes,
Pages flapping in gusts of contaminated air. A phone directory
For a dead city, say. Or: The last scribble made by a man,
Or something similar to a man. Or: The last book-like device,

Some electronic tablet, transparent screen like cellophane,
Crisp sanskrit fading as the battery dies. 2 weeks from now,
Blind meteors may collide with this our green Earth, turning it into
A single ball of fire. On the shelf of some Antarctic research station

One scientific diary may burn marginally slower, making it
For a nanosecond: The last book on Earth. The last book on Earth
May be a bible or a pornographic novel. The last book on Earth
May be less than the magic 200 pages. It may even be more properly

Described as a magazine. Farther out there can be other races,
They can have their “language”, their “writing” and their “books”,
They can keep their copies of the many postcards we've mailed them
Over the years, using rocket fuel for stamps. But no more books for us.

No more detective stories in the hammock. What you hear as
The quiet buzzing of bumble bees is in reality the battle of workers
Evicting fat drones from the nest. Turn the page and put the book down.
Summer is ended when you know who committed the murder.


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