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Page 34

What is flat and white (the page
not yet trodden), seems safe. What is black
and deep may contain any monster
we can imagine -- something able to
reach out with hooks, claws, beams
and pull us into the blackness,
never again to be seen, never again
to see.

The blank page is wide open, nothing
up its sleeve, no sleeves, baring all.
It is flat (run your thumb over it)
and thin (look at it edgewise,
compressed between two fingertips,
thinner than a finger nail, too sharp
to dare run thumb over paper's edge) --

no room here for lumpy things to lurk,
white whales, for example, though
ghosts are pretty thin. The page is flat,
and monsters and men fall over the end
of the page.

None of this is rational: A blank page
could be poisonous to the touch, loaded
with anthrax spores, magically cursed,
able to release the voices of the dead
or unborn to haunt us; the point is,
the illusion: a clean, well-lighted space,
no nooks, no crannies, no shadows
hiding spiders or dust bunnies. Here,
we are in control.

But once blackness enters
with spurious depth (see how the letters seem
to rise up off the page -- even these
slender skeins of black), who knows
what may learn to lurk in pages?

Note: Lines 1 and 2: "The pages not yet trodden" perhaps alludes to Frost's poem about the two diverging paths and choosing the one less traveled. A choice of blanknesses.

Re last stanza and lurkers in blankness, even the author, years later, may lurk among the footnotes, like an artist in disguise visiting the museum to see how people are reacting to his work.


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