This poem is initially a personal lament over the fragmentation that many of us face as a result of the current modes of living. Friendships from childhood rarely last until old age, and many friendships we form as adults are impoverished by ignorance of the friend’s precious past. If, as Virgil wrote, “the best days are [in fact] the first to flee,” then many of us never have the opportunity to live our best days together: hence the line “I either start on the hundredth or end on ninety-nine.” The title plays on the multiple meanings of the word binding which can signify that which holds both a book and a friendship together. After all, it is equally as difficult to finish a book in our day and age as it is to see a friendship through to completion.  While the poem does not directly address the substance of ‘modernity’ as such, it expresses grief over the tangible effects of modernity upon human society, our consciousness and disposition towards time, and our personal relationships with each other. However, despite the unstable life conditions on which contemporary friendships are predicated, the poem ends on a hopeful note, indicating that like reading, friendships are still valuable in the face of the limits our lives impose on them.

Bent Binding

Starting a book on the hundredth page,
tragically late, a bewildered manticore in modernity
wondering at man in faithless age.
Fear makes cling to fragile certainty:
murdered myths on Reason’s altar to ease troubled minds.

These days, authors often turn to platitude:
Tired clichés, an artistic capital crime:
A mass grave of malformed statuettes and misplaced gratitude.
They need shelter the sublime
or resign their work to propaganda and utility.

But, it’s the hundredth page that’s of much import.
I either start on the hundredth or end on ninety-nine.
Too late for the former, and the latter cut short,
to give all to both, if decision were mine,
to let both read me well, if only there were time.

Time: greedy glutton that gnashes all love spent,
good’s limit, evil’s relent, he denies vouchsafe to the page.
Battered books burn, or are broken, or bent.
For your sake, dear book, I address time in rage;
I wish to have grown up reading you and by you being read.

Inverting platitude, I’ve heard it said: “There’s no friend like a good book.”
As helplessly, from prologue to epilogue our forwards do contend,
With loving gaze at your pages frayed, despite all cruel time took,
at sage cliché, I boldly say: “No good book like a friend.”