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The Five Books

The Five Books
by Sandi Leibowitz

In the Library of Lyrinna
in the City on the Hill
there are five books.

First is the Book of Rooms.
Abandon the false index;
it never takes one to
the desired destination.
Instead, leaf through passages
on velvet chambers whose fur-heaped beds
promise easy slumber.
Or read of round chapels shaped
by candle-light and shadow;
between the lines of blurring type,
you’ll swear you hear a chant
—your name, again, again,—
rise on hisses of glory like incense.

Second is the Book of Engines.
The illustrations set your pulse racing
as you dream of far travel,
impossible speeds.
Don’t dare trace
the labyrinthal diagrams;
you’ll set the gears ticking.
Should you cut yourself
on some sharp spoke,
your blood may wash across the woodcuts,
and then beware, beware,
what dread machinery you waken.

Within the furred cover of
the Book of Beasts,
you must pursue elusive words
that slip their herds to wander
amid scents of grasslands, brine,
monkey, hippogriff.
Keep your wits about you.
The careless finger may be crushed
by snapping jaws, a leaning elbow
slashed to ribbons by an errant claw.

Next is the Book of Sins.
Some Readers cry out that the pages burn,
others that they freeze like snow.

Last is the Book of Forgetting,
bound in nude ivory uncarved.
Each page is a puddle of black,
as if pulled newborn-wet from the press.
I stare into a pool of ink,
trying to forget the fate
of Yassinya the witch,
the Library’s Creator and my beloved,
try to drown in black but still
I see her hair gleam gold
as the fire consumes her.

But no, let ink overwrite the scene,
douse the flames.
—Her burned face rises from the dark!—
I turn the page.

Black the ink
and black the page
and black the book
and black the world

In the Library of Lyrinna
in the City on the Hill
there are five books.

* * *

Sandi Leibowitz is a school librarian, classically trained singer and native New Yorker. Her speculative poetry and fiction appear in Mythic Delirium, Pantheon Magazine, Liminality, Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year 5 and other magazines and anthologies. She has followed in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims traveling from southern France to Santiago de Compostela, sailed across the Rio Grande in a hot-air balloon and visited with Arthur in Avalon. She invites you to visit her at her web site, "In the Raven's Wood," at