The Death of Books


(On seeing a set of encyclopedias being turned into a coffee table.)


Today I saw the Death of Books,

Played out, where else,

But on a glowing box.

And as I watched,

Each fatal image flickered

With a heartless, electronic pulse.


A Lancelot with twitching thumb

I hopped from place to place,

In search of truth or winsome face,

To bring a meaning to my quest,

Or, at the very least,

To spice up breakfast.


Instead I stumbled on

A mourning sight,

An unexpected treat.

A show that did not know its name.

A vision sent to prick my soul,

Out of its sleep.


Two women, neatly coiffed,

With perfect nails,

And sprayed-on hair,

With dainty words

And a fetching flash of teeth

Introduced the Big Idea.


Devoid of brains but full of wit,

The encyclopedia waited,

As was Diderot’s preference,

To enlighten those in need

Of borrowed words,

And alphabetic easy reference.


A treasury of thought in type,

Once copied out like holy writ,

Now hypertext without the hype,

Few cared to wade into its layered depths.

Replaced by networks of unstructured prose,

It lay still, in the limelight of its death.


The hostess having got the gist,

Held a twelve-inch cordless drill

With a trembling wrist,

As her preening author guest

Pinned down the hapless volumes

With a jeweled fist.


As metal bit with measured slowness,

The covers were rent, the pages ripped,

Attacked were Aardvark and Adonis,

Cut-down were Caesar, Cat  and Crypt,


Impaled were Indus, Ink and Island,

Harpooned were Haddock, Hake and Hitch.

It thrust through Tendrils, Tent and Thailand,

It vanquished Vampire, and wounded Witch.


The drill stuck fast at zest-filled Zanzibar,

A moment’s pause, too quickly mended.

Soon gone were Zoetrope and Zyzzyva,

The last page pierced, the task was ended.


The drill withdrawn, a rod inserted

The metal spike kept all  in line.

A column now, just as intended,

Bolted shut from curious minds.


The women smiled at their creation,

As they lifted on a top of glass,

A coffee-table encyclopedia,

Would surely add a touch of class.

© 2012 Gavin Miller. All rights reserved.