Litera Scripta Manet

The written word holds on.

Horace is said to have carried his odes
inside his shirt after being ordered home
ill from the Second Triumvirate war.

He wasn’t expected to survive but lived
a long and pleasant life, tossing maxims
like grape seeds from his well-fed mouth.

As a last request to his gathered friends,
Virgil asked that they burn the Aeneid
but none had the heart to destroy a work

where Heaven and Hell meant so much.
Dante’s Commedia was incomplete –
the final canto of the Paradiso presumed

to have died with the poet’s voice until
the author of the great beyond appeared
to his son in a restless dream and pointed

to a panel behind a bedroom tapestry
that depicted the Muses at play in a field,
and the final vision within the Vision

revealed the splendor of the high Empyrean 
after Dante died from a mosquito bite.
Shakespeare’s manuscripts, Aubrey says,

kept a miser warm one winter, and Camöens
shipwrecked in an east-sea typhoon,
swam with one arm for more than ten miles,

holding the Lusiads manuscript aloft while
swimming for his life with the other’s stump.
Shakespeare wanted his Sonnets destroyed.

There is nothing original to this list of wishes.
Poetry exists in spite of the poet, the words
that offer each line an April, the gift of life

where none should exist, the silence until
a line is read, the reinvention inside the head,
the troubled ecstasy of a sleeping soul

that dares to shout aloud in a dream,
the sound that no one hears from shelves,
the voice of the self in search of its self.

Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer is author of 67 books of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and non-fiction. His most recent collections of poems are McLuhan’s Canary (Guernica Editions) and Grace of Falling Stars. His poems have won or been shortlisted for numerous international prizes. He lives in Barrie, Ontario.