Tear Yourself Away


Robert Gibbons

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 114 in 2007.

It’s indelicate to say things twice,
except in prayer.–
Jim Harrison

Jane Harrison, in her Prolegomena, says that all concentrated attention is prayer.

To read, then? To be in the middle of the book, when the whole of the second

half lies ahead, each leaf left to savor, absorb, talk with, examine & reexamine, &

if difficult, take strict notes in order to etch the text into our hermetic cortex. A

litany, then?

So who’s responsible for the curse & blasphemy of the bombing of the ancient

booksellers’ & manuscript dealers’ market on Mutanabi Street in Baghdad on

Monday? Who rendered pieces of flesh strewn over torn pages erasing words?

What long-term consequences are there to destruction of tomes by incineration in

propane extinguished by fire hoses, vanished scrolls resembling Souls of human


America, tear yourself away from your cell phones, take a break from the rat race

& worship of celebrity! America, tear away your fundamentalist cataracts, &

realize that the Tigris River is within walking distance of Mutanabi Street!

America, tear yourself away from the false seduction of American mass culture

as superior to others, & know that the Euphrates is more than a long, flowing line

on a grade school map drawn in crayon!