Cosmo-graphy: poetry

by Marilyn Annucci

When I look closely at my countenance, I am afraid

I see an early alphabet ghosting

beneath this modern text.  Something

like a splotch of α claims me, among other mysteries.

After all, this skin is not unlike a fifteenth century leaf

in need of preservation.  Consider the neglected

volumes in a seminary somewhere near Seattle

that a Jesuit brought back from Florence in the 1960s—

late medieval missals perfumed with must,

vellum pages and gothic miniscule to bend the reader

earthward as he pondered the weight of visions.

When scholars came, not one could spare the time

to catalog or to preserve, and decades passed

and few remained who even read the letters Þ

 and ð, morphed to dust on curious fingers,

recalling the Lenten ritual, and unto dust

thou shalt return, like a thumb

of newsprint on an aging Jesuit’s brow.

And now it is he who is the last to know these books,

and so his task remains: to call these remote words

into a kind of order, to preserve for a few decades more

their place, as I might try to preserve my thinning

skin, or, you, this poem on paper, acid-free

or, better yet, in endless space that swims into a screen

and goes where rockets do not even go, infinity

of sorts, the kind scribes never dreamed.

Who could have guessed that text would surface

from such empty air and not grow cold?  Or not grow

old, as bodies surely do.  Celestial,

each word might seem, a luminary mask—

it hardly matters that the face is gone.

Originally appeared in Dogwood 2005

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