The three Fates are listening to a fourth —
To her who reads aloud, the lectrice Norn —
Over the cries of someone being born,
Laying a common beat to reinforce —
This Fate who reads to entertain her sisters —
A rhythm on reciprocating wrists or
Soothe repetitive motions as each twists her
Hand, the angle of the shears, the tapering forth.
What does she read? Embodiment of the course,
Half-hidden prompter, coxswain Moira,
One nun performing as a choir, the
Comber of harmonics, affinite and coarse.
What does she read? Star tomes, volumes terrene,
The transcript of the continents, libretti of leaves,
Sheets of paper, winding-sheets from sheaves,
Serif and glyph, the tactual lines between.
With that seductive voice, inducing and habile,
Of incunabula and polyseraphic babble,
O sibyl-cataloger of the Library of Babel,
All is true, all false, and nothing can be foreseen.
NOTES for Students of English
The Three Fates – Clotho (“the spinner”) who spins the thread of life; Lachesis (“the measurer”) who draws out the thread to the length of one’s lifetime; and Atropos (“she who cannot be turned or avoided”) who cuts the thread at death. These were the three Greek Moirai (singular Moira) whom the Romans identified with their own three goddesses of fate, the Parcae (pronounced PAR-see) (singular Parca, pronounced PARK-a), whose names were Nona, Decuma, and Morta.
Lectrice – (Pronounced LEK-tris) A girl or woman who reads aloud.
Norn – Any of the three Norse goddesses of fate.
Affinite – (Pronounced AFF-in-it) Spiritually akin.
Habile – (Pronounced HA-bul, rhymes with “rabble”) Adroit.
Polyseraphic – (Pronounced pa-lee-se-RAF-ik) Pertaining to multiple angels.
Library of Babel – A reference to the short story “The Library of Babel” by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). The library in the story contains all possible true and false card catalogs; its holdings contain all true and false information. Hence nothing can be ascertained.
Here is an excerpt:
The Library is total and…its shelves register all the possible combinations of the [letters]…in other words, all that it is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels’ autobiographies, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue,… the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.