Grandmother used to say
that each of us has
a book inside
compiled of all the
stories heard round the fire
a book of ancestors and
events and the various
forces that play upon us,
forest animals and
spirits living and dead,
battles fought, lost and won,
and explanations of every kind
told over and over
so we never forget.

This book we take
with us wherever we
go, adding to it and
embellishing here and there
building it up inside us
until the spirit moves
and spills it out to
intersect with other books
at the appropriate time
passing on to our children,
our wives and husbands,
our parents, our friends,
appended to their books
for better or for worse.

Some of us were running from
those who say books are bad
that there is but one book
for everyone because
too many books make you
doubt the One, but others
of us say the
more books the better
to see the truth within,
the more the stories intertwine
the more they align you with
our uncertain future
because there is no one
better suited than us all.

Fleeing hunger, brutality and disease,
urged on by dreams of steady
income, fast food and phones,
we crowded into this craft
built for half as many
buoyed by hope
ignorant of oblivion
undocumented, passing
between borders on
nothing but a library card
certain it must be better
couldn’t possibly be worse
in the end to have enough
left over to send some home.

So when in desperation the captain
rammed an intercepting cutter
we all ran to one side hoping
to jump to safety on their deck,
our boat listing, tilting, rolling
over and capsizing, spilling
its cargo, the entire 900-volume
library of us, into the
freezing sea, pages flailing,
clinging to their spines,
the women and children’s collection
trapped below drowning screams
and wails in silence, clawing the
hull as she descended.

First a few pamphlets
fluttered to the surface,
then a ream of souls
streamed heavenward
from the card catalog,
counting on a happy ending,
bursting into bubbles, until
the hold erupted in a
giant belch of tiny bindings
and personal belongings
bobbing useless in the waves,
leaving those of us who
survived with a tale we were
too horrified to share.

© 2015 Jim Ramsay, all rights reserved.