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Page 177

A new bottle is empty. Then it is filled with wine.
Someone drinks the wine. The bottle is empty.
How come a page doesn't work that way?
It should: The page is empty, then filled with words.
Someone reads the words. The page is empty.

Well, shouldn't it be? Is not a reader
a consumer of words?

In myths we read of a milk pitcher that,
no matter how much is poured out, remains full.
Restaurants in our own unmythical day offer
"The Bottomless Cup of Coffee" (and a few offer
bottomless waitresses and even more offer
topless -- and cupless -- waitresses. Waitress,
a jug is a ewer, so I eye your topless ewers,
I, eyer of ewers, incurring ire – yours. O, to topple
the topless! [Would a bottomless
Mother Superior in Ethiopia be an abysmal
Abyssinian abbess?]) And Moses met a bush
that burned and burned, but was not consumed.
(Perhaps his spouse had a social disease?)

These words are not consumed by your reading.
Or you, reader, are a fire that doesn't consume.
Or the words bubble up newly, however many
are poured out. Well, Reader, are we not infinite
in our nakedness (and in fine nighties)?
Topless and bottomless? (A good thing
we can't see each other.) (But some of those
topless dancers, endowments much enhanced,
are front-heavy, their cupless couples
far from toppleless.)

Or are those who burn books or bury remaindered books
(the topless ones -- minus their covers)
the true consumers of words? And the word I needed,
yesterday, but could not remember and have not yet --

Note: Speaking of "endowments much enhanced", those enhancements are usually silicone, made from the same sand on which our houses are so insecurely built and on which we now depend for the security of our treasured words and images – the silicon chip. This poem (if you are reading it on my website) is as silicon-enhanced as any chippie. (Does "chippie" still mean whore, or is that obsolete now, ruining my pun?)

The bottomless milk pitcher belongs to an old couple (talk about words vanishing – can't recall their names) in Greek mythology who are visited by two men (Zeus and Hermes in human disguise) and offer hospitality, but are short on the means, so are amazed and pleased when their pitcher keeps coming up with more milk. They're a loving old couple, so the gods grant them their wish to remain united after death in the usual Greek-god way: They turn into two intertwining trees. (What do the trees become when they die? Mythology is silent on the afterlife of trees.) Ah! Philemon and Baucis! The old couples' names return, haggard after their trek among the wild synapses. O the mind, mind hath mountains, cliffs of fall, sheer, no-man fathomed – so saith Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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