Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010

[Two Poems]

Lars Rasmussen

We Are an Egg

We are an egg,
an egg that was before the hen
and survives her for so long
you may ask: Was there ever a hen?
And where is the cock whose call
will signal our transformation?
We are an egg,
shaped by itself,
locked in a perfect form,
self-contained, immaculate,
therefore unable to hatch,
perhaps to break,
but most likely to stay intact,
never revealing an inside.
Perfectly balancing,
swaying, tumbling slightly,
throwing gently rounded shadows,
such an egg are we.


King’s Claim

Onboard the Titanic,
apart from so many people,
so many innocent souls,
so much cutlery, jewelry, livery,
so much wine, so many roses,
not to mention a whole brass band,
a whole inventory that went down with the ship,
was also a fantastic book,
a most magical book,
the Great Omar by name.

This translation from Persian by FitzGerald
of Omar Khayyám’s Rubáiyát
was bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe of London,
superb bookbinders,
in a binding made from 4,000 bits of skin
and over 1,000 shining rhinestones,
beautifully composed, art nouveau style,
heavily tooled and richly gilt,
a display of wonderful workmanship, 
with a precision of plus/minus a tenth millimeter.
Finished in 1911, and worth over 1,000 pounds 
— in the money of that time a fortune —
the binding took four hundred hours to complete.

You cannot cross the ocean with a book like that.
The King of the Sea will want it.
He’ll drag your ship down to get it,
and so he did. So it went with the Titanic,
April 14, 1912.

A year later, in a desperate attempt 
to claim back the book from the king,
Sangorski drowned. 

After grieving the loss for so many years,
Sutcliffe, now sole owner of the bindery,
made another Omar, a rival to the one lost,
of similar beauty and even bigger cost,
and had it displayed in London, unwisely,
right under the eyes of the King of Fire,
who claimed it — of course he did —
a night in the London blitz.

People are rarely willing to learn from fate, 
and a third Omar now has been made, 
finished in 1989, and placed in the King’s Library
— that is, the not-existing King of England —
so the book has no owner.
It is placed right under the eyes of the King of the Air
and right over the eyes of the King of the Earth. 
Unwisely, perhaps,
yet perhaps not.
Its destiny is clear.
It is a king’s claim.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury