A Billion Lines You Say – Nathan Jerpe

Nathan Jerpe

A billion lines you say?
Well fetch me my glasses then!
Go get my slippers, my pipe,
Some kindling for the fire
And send for a jug of wine.
I like the way it keeps the voices smooth.
Say now that I think of it,
See if you can find the spools of tape –
You’ll need help gathering them up –
The gantry and the microphones,
A stack of dinner trays, or make it two,
And all the soft light you can muster.
Then squire deliver me yon turning pike,
The one engorged with polished gems –
That I might dare to thrust beneath the page,
To lance in series, one by precious one
Each pupil in this school of bellied curves,
The studied faces falling front to back,
Surrendering to my calipers,
That I may breathe their words without a hitch.
And summon hence my able-bodied steed!
The one with casters and the folding jack,
That fearless I might couch aloft the spine,
And with a button’s press descend, most valiant,
To all the surging rows of lattermost,
And then to rightward roll, springing up to reach
The letters hung before the topmost towers,
A mirrored vale that severs them their kin.
And gather up – ah! just bring me
My needle and my syringe.
My bedpan too, my pills,
The magnifying lens,
That I might rightly know
What in hell I’m supposed to say.
And dammit for chrissakes
Dust off the hiatus too.
Plug it in, crank it up
As high as it will go.
We’ve hardly any time left.
I’m hardly a young man anymore.

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