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Lay for the Day
19th May

St Peter Celestine’s day. Peter was a hermit of the 13th century whose followers became so numerous that they formed their own monastic order, living under the Benedictine rule, known as the Celestine Order. During a long deadlock over the election of a new pope, Peter issued a ringing denunciation of the cardinals' prevarication, and was promptly elected pope himself. He proved a disastrous failure as pontiff, being far too unworldly and trusting, and so he abdicated – the only pope ever to have done so.
He is the patron saint of bookbinders and others who work in the making of books – which this poem takes to cover the industry of reading matter generally.

Reading the Tube

Had I an eyesight like the honey-bee’s
That sees the flowers burning ultraviolet,
That saw not pulp and gum, but litanies
Only, hiving – the million orts of these
Books, papers and mags, moving inviolate
In air, in the buzz of romance and violence;
Saw drone statistics pressing suit on Love, queen
Among phonemes, the Om of swarming offspring;
We workers would not seem to tremble and swing
In gliding cages, pecking such inky treen
As finches cuttlefish-bones, but being seen
In bluebell woods of sense, would be heard to sing.
At a carriage return, the doors’ curved sheets
Slide back. New black galaxies push for their seats.

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

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