It waited for him in the dusty treatises
On his father’s bookshelf, in the back stacks
Of the local library, in the rare book room
And the manuscript collection on the fifth floor,
In the basement where they kept the well-thumbed
Periodicals and crumbling theology texts.
Unshelved and displaced, uncatalogued, overdue,
It waited in the background while he scanned
The names of authors, writing down titles.
It shuddered when he read about the infinite
Starry spaces and the fast-moving river
Into which he would never step twice,
And it paused in the margins of the ancients,
In archaic Greek rituals and thunderous voices
Rising out of the whirlwind. He could not
Hear it breathing between the pages, belabored
In German, trilling in Spanish, stammering
Backward in Hebrew. He did not listen
To it crying out softly in the trees
Like a prophecy, though it waited for him
Nonetheless, a patient and faithful oblivion,
An emptiness, which he would not call God.