32. James’ Book

James had been sent to bed.
It’s not late, he thought.
The clock had wound down:
Riah’d guessed the hour.
He’d smuggled in, against
The bedtime rules, his favorite
Book. Book Of The Earth:
“A book children may read,
For it is simple,
And that men may read,
For it is plain.”
Glass rattled in the window.
Dust clawed helter-skelter
At the sill.

James struck a match.
His finger traced page five:
“We get the best idea
Of what a nebula is like
From the name the poets call it–
Fire Mist.”
The wallboards creaked and strained.
James pulled his quilt
Into a lumpy tent.
A second match:
“What is the force
Which shapes the nebulae,
Thickens them into star-cities?
It is everywhere.
Its name is long, but
Not hard to describe.”
Gravity. James nodded.
“Gravitation: familiar fact
In all our daily lives.”

The wind snarled.
What if the glass shatters?
James shivered.
Cut my eye. “…lying
On his back one day…
Not just dreaming time away,
However, and he saw
What thousands, too, saw
Not troubling to think–an apple”–
James dropped the book.

What if I couldn’t see?
He wondered if eyes bleed,
Or slice open, onion-white.
The storm crooned roughly,
Forcing through the cracks.
Next match:
“Herschel posited
A strange ‘clustering power’
Must be working, turning
Scattered, milky nebulae
To brighter, smaller objects
Which would someday become
Stars, suns, solar systems.
He compared the heavens
To a garden, filled with
Rich blossoming worlds, plants
In every stage of life.”
Eyes blinking, heavy,
James skimmed through.
“Partnership of Sun and Earth.”
A drawing of things,
Buried in the mud:
A tusk. Fish bones.
People digging down.

They’re too mad today, he thought,
Mama. Dad. Too mad.
Something’s wrong.
“They’ll sell us down the river.
No one will keep the contract.
They’ll sell us down the river,”
Dad had said.
Slaves were sold, James thought,
To pick the cotton.
Which we already do.
A gale–boards warped inward,
Ceiling squealed–
I am the best in History,
James thought, the best
In Science!
His match, he spat out.
Herschel’s milk-chocolate bars.
Herschel’s milk-chocolate stars.
Holding to his book,
He stroked it peacefully,
And slept.

One Response to “32. James’ Book”

  1. philipparees Says:

    Ever thought of reading this on audio?

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