Friday, May 16, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Encyclopedias

Wikimedia Commons

Yard Sale

by George Bilgere

Someone is selling the Encyclopedia Britannica
in all its volumes,
which take up a whole card table.

It looks brand new, even though it must be sixty years old.
That's because it was only used a couple of times,
when the kids passed through fifth grade
and had to do reports on the Zambezi River
and Warren Harding.

Der Fuhrer was defunct.
The boys came home,
and everybody got the Encyclopedia Britannica,
which sat on the bookshelf
as they watched Gunsmoke
through a haze of Winstons.

these people grew old
and were sent to a home
by the same children who once wrote
reports on Warren Harding.

And now the complete and unabridged
Encyclopedia Britannica,
bulging with important knowledge,
is sitting on a card table in a light rain.

I couldn't resist keeping with the theme of my posts from Wednesday and Thursday.

Liz has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Elizabeth Steinglass: Poet.


  1. Great poem, so true! I've really liked the few Bilgere poems I've seen so far, and must find more of his work and study it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Yay for encyclopedias! Go team knowledge!

  3. My computer monitor is actually propped up on eight volumes of Life's Nature Library, sort of an encyclopedia of nature.
    What an ending!

  4. I love the details--Warren Harding, card table, light rain, Gunsmoke.

  5. I agree with Liz, the details are what make this poem. They were also what crushed me in the end.

  6. He is so precise about constructing the scene - and getting at the truth.

  7. And there's a whole other story that's not covered in the poem--the visit from the encyclopedia salesman and how he talked the couple into purchasing it! And what it must have cost!

  8. "The Zambezi River" instantly gives me the recognition that it would be in the last volume. I remember a fascination with the way encyclopedias were broken up--by letter or range of words. I liked seeing how thick each volume was or what the range was.

    What an evoking poem. Like Michelle, the last stanza hits me hard.

  9. Hi there Mary Lee, George Bilgere is definitely a new-to-me poet. This has resonated with me because we did have sets of encyclopedia while I was growing up. We had Colliers, Charlie Brown, and Childcraft sets though, not the Brittanica. :)

  10. This captures those days quite well--cigarette smoke and Westerns on the TV, and a full set on Britannicas on the shelf, just waiting to be used!


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