Book and Sphere

Sara Backer

Book and Sphere

I’m climbing vines, leaves hard as metal
ladders, tinted gold and lilac, under a linen sky.

Between stems and branches, faces pop up,
then hide. I’m getting lost in spades

and knots—oh! kittens playing—slow down, heart!
I might get stuck in this margin. I tear myself out

of the pages. Bleeding ink, I stagger outside.
I see a sculpture of a polished steel globe—part whole,

part holes—which warps the images of passersby.
I watch them walk a shiny curve into and off the world.

I left the book
and I am mortal now.


Sara Backer’s Elgin-nominated book, Such Luck, follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt and Bicycle Lotus, which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in Abyss & Apex, Asimov’s, Bracken, Crannóg, Dreams & Nightmares, ETTT, NonBinary Review, The Pedestal, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, Space and Time, and Star*Line. Her honors include a prize in the 2019 Plough Poetry Competition, and ten Pushcart nominations. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and reads for The Maine Review. Recent publications include Bamboo Ridge, Lake Effect, CutBank, Poetry Northwest, and Poetry Ireland. She lives in New Hampshire.
Backstory: “Book and Sphere” is ekphrastic, attributed to The Book of Kells. In my youth, I practiced calligraphy and even earned money scripting wedding invitations or menus, etc., but I couldn’t come close to the artists’ marginalia and surprises. Pomodoro’s sculpture is right outside Trinity College (which supports The Book of Kells) and this poem expresses my awe inside and out.

  Ekphrastic sources:
  The Book of Kells
  Sculpture ‘Sfera con Sfera’ by Arnaldo Pomodoro: By Smirkybec – Own work, CC0,

Editor’s Notes: “The symbols of the four Evangelists derive from the four beasts of Ezekiel and the Book of Revelation appearing in manuscript illuminations at an early stage of Christianity. According to the Bible, both the prophet Ezekiel and the apostle John receive visions of the throne of God surrounded by four beasts.”

“The sculpture was designed for the Vatican and is also displayed in Dublin, Tel Aviv, and the Italian Parliament. The form depicts the globe of Earth itself. This complex work of art, composed of a sphere growing inside another sphere, can be read as a symbol of the emergence of a new world from the old.”

Image Credit: A folio from the Book of Kells [ cited from “The Evangelical Symbols in the Book of Kells” by SCRIBES AND STORYTELLERS]

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2 Responses to Book and Sphere

  1. MARGE SIMON says:

    Beautifully fantastic, the composition of this poem takes my breath away and seems so familiar, as if I’ve experiened it when reading an enthralling book. The presentation by John Mannone adds to the poem’s appreciation.

  2. Sara Backer says:

    Thank you so much, Marge! And thank you, John, for all the references.

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