The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Ministry of Flowers by Andrea Witzke Slot

This selection, chosen by Guest Editor Jordi Alonso, is from The Ministry of Flowers by Andrea Witzke Slot, released by Valley Press in 2020.

Book Burning

for Michael and Elene

Bookworms of the wood-boring-beetle-kind
(not their six grown children who, when new
books arrived, devoured them one at a time)
had burrowed into their words and their rooms,
their secret storage of stories that lined
the many walls of their labyrinth home.
How fat the worms had grown with fifty silent
years of chewing, how fat and full and settled.

They set off to cull the infected books,
carefully choosing those beyond redemption,
piling them near the grinning wood fire stove
in the small nook of their coldest room. Then—
with reluctance, dismay—they fed the mouth
of the fire, stoked book by book, the pages
fanning as the grate chewed before swallowing
in one magnificent gulp—ink, spine, carbon.

They felt thinner as the fire blazed and gained
strength, until suddenly—in his hand—a lost
songbook appeared. He studied the book’s changed
state and, with its heat on his knees, he flipped
its pock-marked pages and hummed a refrain.
His wife leaned near. They looked up. They nodded.
He slipped the book under his thigh, released
it from the fate of the furnace’s heat.

Later, as from the pit they shovelled ashes,
the couple marvelled at how the worms ate
through their words, nibbled at long-stored memories—
the sought-after-and-found, the times-not-taken,
the what-can-never-be-lost, the times-moved-on,
and what-can-never-be-recovered, struck
most by what they found in one book’s recollection—
a hymn for all they spared from time’s jawing destruction.

Andrea Witzke Slot is a London-based poet and fiction writer, whose work has won prizes with Able Muse and Fiction International and placed in a number of competitions in both the US and UK. Her work can be found in such places as Ambit, American Literary Review, The Southeast Review, and Stand Magazine. After teaching for many years, Andrea now lives in London where she works as a contributing artist with Fiona Lesley’s Poetry Exchange and works to capture humanity and nature in words, paints, piano and photography. Her publications include To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press 2012) and The Ministry of Flowers (Valley Press 2020). Find her online on her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Jordi Alonso holds a BA from Kenyon College, an MFA from Stony Brook University, and a PhD in English from the University of Missouri where he studied nineteenth century British literature, classical reception in the Victorian era, and ancient Greek. He will begin his studies towards an MA in Classical Studies at Columbia University in the fall. His first book, a collection of erotic poems inspired by Sappho, Honeyvoiced, was published by XOXOX Press in November of 2014. His chapbook, The Lovers’ Phrasebook was published in 2017 by Red Flag Press. He is currently writing a third book of poems based on ancient Greek divination practices at Delphi.

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