Poetry Musings

Tom Absher

I'm really an accidental poet. I did not set out to be a poet, nor did I think of myself as a poet in my youth, but rather discovered the poet in me in my early thirties in the 1970s. I surprised myself by beginning to write poems in the college where I was teaching English Literature and was divinely lucky to have accomplished poet-colleagues who took me under their wings. I owe them the moon. I dedicated my first book to them. I have had some modest public success as a poet: I have three books of poems, have been awarded large and small grants, have won a few prizes.

Mainly, my greatest reward has been in finding this medium in the first place, and  then in discovering the way poems disclose the world for me, take me more deeply into my life and life around me. My life is a very ordinary one but poems show me the rich, I would even say numinous, dimensions and connections that reside in the ordinary which I never before knew were there. The poem "Books" below is a small example of this.  It seeks out the essence of books and takes me and the reader into the spines of books and suggests a connection between the history of paper and books and my history.  A book is like a life and so is life like a book. This poem recently  appeared in the current edition of Xanadu a poetry journal put out by the Long Island Poetry Collective.


Books are the fallen angels I live among,
they lie about in my study -
on tables, desks, chairs, the floor,
on the ladder rising to my library's
top shelves - their pages spread open like wings,
beckoning in their own erotic way:
read me, read me, read me.

On a warm afternoon, sometimes
a single page will curl like a wave,
slowly lift in the air
and turn: the book's spirit
contemplating itself and sunlight.

I love my books, the heft of them,
their smells, grace and promises of grace,
their loyalty as friends.

Paper was invented by the Chinese:
they mashed up the inner bark
of mulberry trees, bamboo, hemp waste, old rags,
and fish nets; then spread the soggy pulp
on mesh to dry, one sheet at a time.
Deep in their spines, mingling
with the ink and the glue,
an older book will give off scents
of its origins - the smells
of an old person like myself,
one whose skin is stained and thin
as paper, one whose life
is composed of the pulpy fishnets
of his stories.

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