Bibliotechnical Sins

[poetry]

The limestone mason who lives

in sculpted-bare northwest Kansas

has a side job emptying dumpsters.

He collected lovely books for his children

as nearby libraries dumped piles

and piles of volumes, untouched

on shelves for twelve months. We gasped!

I remembered scanning shelves here

years ago only to find a previously

unstamped volume by the brother

of Isaac Asimov Singer. Why would

anyone check it out? I, therefore,

found a treasure. Now the shelves

boast all bright new and popular books.

Can I find the words I mark electronically

without the cluster of stars I draw

in margins to show what is important?

Can I discover a buried treasure

finger-flicking entries on a screen?

Can I flip pages for perusal

of bright maps on unexpected pages?

Remorse, confession receive grace

the old-fashioned way, and perhaps

saved forests will bless us

for some new-fangled forgiveness.

I balance out my own sins, rationalize

until I become lily-pure. Can I find absolution,

indulgence with this salvation of trees?

Forgiveness demands repentance

for our wrongdoing, and who can say

if any good has come out of

our swift tradings of old sins for new.

Carol Hamilton is a former teacher in Connecticut, Indiana, and Oklahoma. She taught in the English Department at Rose State College and on the graduate faculty of the writing program at the University of Central Oklahoma. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2007. She has won a Southwest Book Award, an Oklahoma Book Award, Cherubim Award, Pegasus Award, Chiron Review Chapbook Award, David Ray Poetry Prize, the Byline Literary Awards for both short story and poetry, and the Warren Keith Poetry Prize. She has published seventeen books of poetry, legends, and children’s novels. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize seven times.