Here we like to return our books
cleaner than we think they were.
The paperbacks are complicated,
for we’ve made them with skin so soft and sweet
it cracks into lightning strikes and shrieks
at the gentlest dab of cologne
at every plea to stay presentable or
to spit out millions in loose change from between its pages
and pay the bill.
We give excuses
for every layer of filth that accumulates and devours the paper.
So the pages rot.
And fall apart.
A hardcover is built for scrubbing.
With time we pale
garish hues and obscene lettering
to something more palatable and pure
that complements all the other trophies on the shelf
and makes it less conspicuous,
as who cares for the title of a paperweight?
Nobody judges the shell
of a former shell, except for, perhaps
Itself, who will not let its spine break
even when pinned down and flattened against a table.
We think it vain.
But every book falls to the counter in the end,
runs under the same scanner
drops into the same pile:
here the paperbacks and hardcovers
and pop-up books and audiobooks and everything in between
can feel each other’s tears
each other’s shelf lives and
hold each other through their covers
(and perhaps then they realise
there’s so very little that they don’t have in common.)
until we return
to force, and grab, and pull them apart once more.