Turns out we’re back in Constantinopl,
year 1453. Only this time around,
the Ottoman sultan has run out of stuffing
for his bronze siege cannons and what
with that big chain still keeping his armada
from bristling up the harbor, the sultan
decides to just start catapulting dictionaries
over the battlements. Hardbacks, palm-thick,
they open mid-air like a flock of paper fans.
Some deaths, sure, but the main problem
after a few weeks is all these damn books
piling under the eaves, a literal and figurative
pain in the ass when the city’s defenders
start debating verb tense, the true definition
of hegemony as they sit instead of firing
back at that persistent force of infidels.
So Constantine XI does the obvious
and for centuries afterward, we writers,
we would-be politicians and armchair
terrorists will thank God for the metaphor.
Frantic armies of Christ burning books,
smoke-choked prelude to the Renaissance,
plus those men who proliferated typesetting
just to churn out more ironic siege fodder.
But you say this is what you remember:
dictionaries and maybe a stray Bible or two
leaving fluttersong in the morning air,
drowning out the din of armor and bellows,
arcing like headless doves over fields of grass
and stone, shattering our incautious gaze.
Image by: Kasey Ann