The chained dictionary in the chained library
is too weighty to lift, you say. Beyond the lock of it,
the door to the library, also locked.
Beyond that, the stair to the library, at the foot
of which is another locked door. Aha, girls,
taught Latin and Calculus, to read and to sew,
you feel these lines of defence arrayed against
the enemy. Not only is this not a book for you
but a lexicon in chains, kept secure only
by the careful hands of monks and scholars.
Let us call this the history of protection
which means these men have had to do a lot of leaning:
a whole living language ripped by light of day
from the tip – from underneath – your tongue.
Tim Liardet has been twice shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Arcimboldo’s Bulldog: New and Selected Poems will be published by Carcanet in May.
This article appears in the 10 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Toddler in chief