One Hundred Books on a Deserted Island
You asked which one hundred books
one would take if exiled to a deserted island?
Why would one willingly imagine such a fate,
and which books would one salvage?
You didn’t say what trauma would cause
this crisis; why an island is the only hostel.
Would this island offer survival,
let alone, time to read?
Your question presumes
a craft large enough to safely transport
one hundred books- one that could haul a
cache of volumes, and one
seaworthy enough to carry them,
like Prospero’s ship transporting him
with his books to that storm-tossed isle,
when he was banished from Milan by
Antonio his brother.
I could list one hundred books, beside
Shakespeare, alluded to here,
but the rest would mean little to others,
except those added as an afterthought;
Edible Wild Plants, or Survival with Style.
Even I, who
love books enough to fill a house,
would none-the-less prefer a person
with interests in common, in preference
to singular discourse with books only.
Does your scenario allow a mongrel, even,
to be a watch keeper against danger?
Prospero, you remember,
was at least allowed the companionship
of his daughter Miranda, sailors and spirits.
You have not said if we would be allowed
other items; tools, roof, clothing, or pen?
Given more than books, then,
half of my chosen books would be blank,
for filling with words stored in my mind,
and for paraphrasing careful letters, stories,
pages, for for tearing out, to spiral into bottles
which I would set afloat to sail the lonely sea,
carrying all my hopes on a journey
to some welcoming circle of friends
who would come to carry me back home.
© by Ruth Zachary