Monday, October 25, 2021

Front Matter

There is the author’s name
followed by a date soon forgotten,
then city and font,
ISBN and publisher,
all rights reserved, of course,
the author’s cerebellum copyrighted
for the curious, I suppose.

And oh, by the way,
any resemblance to people living or dead
is purely, so surely, coincidental,
is it not, saith the law?

And yet the adulteries
and murders and voyages
to distant lands or inside the heart
have all spun through the tornado
of reality, have they not,
variations on a theme at best.

The smiles and whistles
and rants and loves
are as real as sun on glass,
as foam on wave.

Why else put pen to paper
or press slugs on ink
but for the fact that there are realities
to save and savor,
to dream about?

What if that is my own life
in those dogeared pages?
What if I myself inject the poison
into the wealthy owner
of the country estate in Wessex
or save the planet from the comet
or the Galactic Emperor Ximodius?

I need the distant stars
to keep hope alive,
but landlords and publishers
need coin of the realm.

The alarm clock rings,
so I get out of bed
and inject caffeine
so that I may save
part of the big blue marble
that’s smaller than a postage stamp.

My employer has my front matter:
my name, height,
date and place of birth,
prior employment,
highest level of education,
all soon forgotten
when the wheels of the day
start meshing like cogs
to turn the world one more time
on an axis that’s tilted
from leaning my shoulder
into the task at hand.

But here’s the secret:
I can quit at any time.
There’s always another book,
another day, another job,
another Sisyphus
to roll the stone up the hill.

I am free to leave
the classroom or factory
or corner office
to go outside and play,
to drink in sunshine.
I made a contract
with Newtonian physics
and the laws of gravity and man
when I slid down the birth canal.
But I still own the copyright.

~William Hammett

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