Rita Dove

One Volume Missing

Green sludge of a riverbank,
swirled and blotched,
as if a tree above him were shuffling
         Who would have thought
the binding of a “Standard Work
of Reference in the Arts,
Science, History, Discovery
and Invention” could bring back

slow afternoons with a line and a bent nail

here, his wingtips balanced
on a scuffed linoleum square
at the basement rummage sale
of the A.M.E. Zion Church?

He opens Motherhood-Orion and finds
orchids on the frontispiece 
overlain with tissue,
fever-specked and drooping
their enflamed penises.

Werner’s Encyclopedia, 
Akron, Ohio, 1909:
Complete in Twenty-five Volumes
minus one —

for five bucks
no zebras, no Virginia,
no wars.