No Disposals


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David Eggleton

Homage to Fahrenheit 451

An index of the forbidden, incunabula,
completist compendium, the great codex,
gospels, epistles, illuminated missals,
Sibyl’s leaves, pith taken from the trunks of trees.
Book of facts, book of feasts, book of legends,
book of nonsense, book of lies, book of dreams,
book of lost tribes, book of enlightenment,
bleeding edge of devil’s ink, one more time.
Book of annihilation, defacement; book thrown,
book that bites and stings to free us from us;
book buried full fathom five, made of bone.
The Viking epic, the Hindu epic, The Dunciad,
even the Elizabethan world view,
dumped on the cart, books sacred or taboo;
books forgotten: asked, what happened to you?
Books extant bow down, now out on their ear,
each extinct volume stamped NOT MADE HERE.
Books judged guilty till proved innocent.
Literature blown to very fine scraps:
fragments stuck like wings of bees in amber;
books like a squarish chunk of the True Cross.
The farce of ‘dustiny’, backward and abysmal,
a negation that rejects the universal;
leaping from the pages into your arms no more;
instead, remaindered and trucked for landfill.
Gore Vidal’s four favourite words: I told you so;
but who is to know Oscar Wilde tore off
the top of each page he read with the flourish
of an orchestra conductor, entombed
along with his books as a waka sinks on Taupō.
Laws to purify the dialect of the tribe;
remember us, whisper words of wisdom,
though passports revoked they’re shipped offshore.
Cathedral where logomancers once held sway,
the gulf of which Horace wrote and Homer sang
is as empty as a bureaucrat’s head;
and those are dollar signs that were her eyes.
Light creates place, but print is plain meaning,
and absence is melancholy, an ode by John Keats.
God’s anvil, smote by McCahon’s paintbrush,
was built for Jerusalem with Blake’s Holy Word.
Archaic zeal unhouses a legacy,
a bookish harvest crushed to root out heresy.
Dust is dust, and that vaulted ambition
of collections past, a quaint old custom.
Let some muscular aphorist rip shit or bust
this slow-grown forest for Amazon chopsticks.
It’s the same mess made yesterday —
as the landscape erodes in today’s rain —
when conserving was a dirty word in boardrooms.
Beware jabberwocks with their tape measures,
beware contempt of performative franchises,
beware the down-under of the spirit,
grim resistance of civil puritans.
So slash the library until it bleeds,
outsource consultation of our needs;
give books to the collector of left-over souls.
Urn Burial, Urquhart’s ‘Rabelais’, all are gone.
Books are noble animals but have to be put down,
because about suffering they are never wrong.
Out of the crooked timber of humanity,
no straight thing was ever made, except books:
books, now martyrs to electronic buzzfuzz,
cancel culture and bonfires of the vanities,
airy nothings of populist politicians.
You screen, I screen, we all screen together.
I dig your screen; screen on, it’s a lovely feeling;
your smartphone screen has got me reeling.
Slam the book shut and get with the programme:
a mass indoctrination by the corporation.
Put books through a paper shredder;
kill the arcane tome, you’ll feel better.


David Eggleton won the 2016 Ockham Book Award for The Conch Trumpet. He received Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2016. He is Poet Laureate 2019- 2022. The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, Otago University Press(2021).