Monday, April 19, 2010


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

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