9(3), August 1992, page 22

Time Machines

Joe Amato

Better than four decades
left before I reach the point
at which the membrane will split
and chafe along the folds, the expression
unbecoming, a bit weary with it all, with the passing
of family and friends and things, provided
I make it that far, provided
I want to.

I'm thinking even now of books, those machinelike
books of electronic text that are talked about here and there
these days, big business in but a few more years, aging me
and my ilk even more rapidly, and Iım thinking that perhaps
the creases in the pages of my three favorite books
are as important as my integument, natural
or artificial, an old flannel shirt, say, that used to be
my father's.

But I'm thinking that the new books will age, as well
existing after all in the space of time like everything else and
I'm trying to imagine what this will make of our aging, that
of me and mine, and I'm thinking that perhaps
the new books will not take away from what I or they find
precious or beautiful, that perhaps these things will always be
with us, reshaped and transformed and preserved

And I'm beginning to understand that not everything is preserved
anyway, that we move on and forget
even what was once dear to us, laughing
at our forgetfulness, creating through erasure
places in our lives for the passing
of three favorite books, space
for inventing something new to laugh and
to cry over.

Joe Amato teaches in the English Department at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.