It took five-thousand asshides to make that manuscript,
my instructor said as we learned about
hapax, haplography, and palimpsest.
I imagined, during lectures
on the evolution of miniscule script,
donkeys that toiled in mines or turned mill-wheels,
and wondered if, when the tanner’s knife
was at their throats, some thoughtful angel
whispered to them that from now on
they would not carry burdens that would bend
their legs and hurt their backs;
instead, they would carry the Word of God –
the Scriptures written on the skin
that held their guts in, stretched over their ribs,
the covering that encased their tiny lives. 
The Law excluded them: along with pigs
and camels, asses could not be offered
as sacrifices to the Lord. Through centuries
their backs and sides, transfigured, showed gospels,
epistles, the apocalypse, the psalms,
as in the past they bore baskets of grain,
firewood and figs, wineskins, ingots, iron ore.



David Landrum