Thursday, October 29, 2020



B I L L Y     J O E     S H A V E R

1939 Corsicana, Texas ~ 2020


Book Burning

We are out of wood to heat the house,

and still the weather is cold.

I did something that did not make me happy.

My first book of poems,


yes, we brought the copies up from the cellar,

took them out of the packages they're wrapped in,

and threw them in the yellow tile stove

and the black metal one. I'm burning books

I wrote a long time ago and doing so remember

other burnings, the many cruel ones in history,

and especially the ones in the twentieth century.

To my books I add literary magazines.

Listen, people, it's just my books I'm burning!

From the paper covered with words many ashes remain.

The stove heats up from the pages in flames.

We feel warmer and perhaps closer to spring,

the sun shining, balmy weather, clear skies.

Perhaps, we'll be forgiven for this fire

by the stern judges whose forgiveness we seek?

Nevertheless, I ask myself, is there an excuse for this.

Will my conscience bother me because of what I've done?

Should one sacrifice in everything for higher things?

Perhaps, friends, freezing in a cold house

is not something one should resist in this way

and burn books, words, sentences, white paper

and get from them black and gray ashes and a little warmth.

Milan Djordjevic
Oranges and Snow
translated from the Serbian
by Charles Simic
Princeton, 2010

When I really need to dig in, I go eastern european —
it's on the way to Asia from where I live