On the value of reading during a global pandemic

On the value of reading during a global pandemic

Though it save no life
passes time
that could be wasted
with Money Heist
or Tiger King
on Netflix; or fear

or breaking the law
with walking twice
the same day. To read
is to return
to somewhere never gone
or only in memory;

it is a home abroad,
a power without pain.
Libraries are banks
that never drain away
their fiscal strength;
a book is a mile

of miles at a single length.
You may start Sir Browne
and die before the Urne;
no holiday ends
too late; life is brevity,
reading infinite. We skim

the stone of ourselves
upon the surface of time
like a meteor burning
as it skips the skin of space.
We hold a place
to return again. But even

entering the waves once
permits the wetting sea
to begin.  Death is omnipresent,
gasping at medics
like a vicious shark; they lean
in to serve, are swallowed

themselves by dark.
Though lovers break orders
to couple danger in the park.
Open any volume, intake
the giving breath of a moment
whose endless living

is language’s flowing monument.
No consolation consoles
enough to kill contagion;
philosophy knows without force;
still in the textual course
we stand and receive words

to surpass life or death
in omnipotence plenitude
bestows on merely
temporary things that bare
swords or teeth at war
or love or both or all.

26 March, 2020
London

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