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Burning the Book

by John Witte

The reader is tired        of her book

its many characters        its twists and turns

of plot        she feels a sadness        for the trees

cut and pulped        to make the paper        the writer

toiling at his desk        she lets it drop

into the fire        writhing

open as if        all it wanted

was to flower again        her face aglow

aghast        in booklight        the gray petals

freckled with letters        the paper

collapsing into ash


John Witte’s poems have appeared widely, in publications such as The New Yorker, Paris Review, and American Poetry Review, and have been included in The Norton Introduction to Literature, among several anthologies. He is the author of Loving the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 1978), The Hurtling (Orchises Press, 2005), and Second Nature (University of Washington Press, 2008). He is also the editor of numerous books, including The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall (Oregon State University Press, 2000). The recipient of two writing fellowships from the NEA, a residency at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and other grants and awards, he lives with his family in Eugene, Oregon, where he teaches literature at the University of Oregon. (1/2011)

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