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Why on earth does a postage stamp come to mind
When I see those floating bodies,
Immaculate faces of infants sleeping too deeply
In the wake of the tsunami?

Long ago, a flood overtook the basement,
Almost all the old books in ruins,
Leather bindings buckling, gilded edges fading,
The marbling drifting away.

From the wreckage we pulled the stamp albums
My father kept, and another that was mine,
Holding the countries I longed to visit, lozenges
Of color, names too fragrant to pronounce.

Nations that are no more could slumber there,
Though swallowed or torn;
Mountains, bridges, and flowers survived.
The cover was stained, the pages dried,

But one of the stamps had come undone,
Sliding from corners lovingly fastened—
And now whole shorelines are sliding away,
The book of the world so swollen it cannot close.

Presented by

Phillis Levin is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet (2001). Her forthcoming collection, May Day, will be published next spring.

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