Poem: Worthy Book

Worthy BookUnworthy Lives cover
After buying Unworthy Lives, by Jason L. (“Les”) Atkins, 2004,
who died this weekend.

Today his book arrived in the mail
in a shrink-wrapped package
from Better World Books
Last week I felt bad
looking for a copy online,
finding such a worthy title
so cheap
less than the shipping
four ninety-eight all told

Label on the spine
sticker on the back
marked it as a former
library holding
Virginia Beach Public Library
811.54 in the Dewey system
American Poetry
How far had this book
traveled, to come back so
close to home

I sat there and marveled
at the yellow cloth binding
thinking over the events of the day
having talked at length with
our Thursday poetry group
about elusive peace, pervasive war
man’s inhumanity to man
about appropriate responses
to personal attacks
love and forgiveness
vengeance and recidivism
all these words and thoughts
swirled around in my consciousness

Pasted inside the front cover
was a brief explanation
an overview punctuated by colons
what Les calls “cages”
the whole book is the “bird”
But inside this book of horrors,
a new horror
in full caps on the fly leaf
stamped in black
forty-point Helvetica:

There must have been
a German word
a word in French
or Polish or Russian
that someone stamped
on a paper somewhere
for what to do with those
unwürdige leben

I promise to be
a steward for this book
protect this slim volume
which protects and preserves
the memory
of so many
“unworthy lives”

© Eileen Ridge 2011