“Spirit duplicator technology
gradually fell into disuse starting in the 1970s after
the availability of low-cost, high-volume xerographic
copiers.” “Spirit duplicators,” Wikipedia
Groped from an attic shelf’s oblivious ledge
from oddments, orts, cobwebs, and dustball-bloom,
this slight, sleek bottle could have held perfume.
What is it, darkly purple? Scent with an edge
close to intoxication flips some lever
back forty years:
The duplicating room.
My young legs in patched jeans and steep-pitched fervor
sprinting upstairs, three flights in pre-dawn gloom.
Young fingers whacking text onto a sheet—
Donne, so undone with flubs I groan, then laugh.
Did globs from such small bottles, daubed on neat,
(purpling my nail in blood of dittograph)
fix them? And did I scrape each flea-bit speck
to mend the letter with another peck?
Yes, and loaded the gizmo. Watched it churn
out sheets that reeked their alcoholic high.
Handed them off to the mortal hand and eye
of groggy first-years with no need to learn
that artful, passionate plea.
Did the years fly
or creep? And still the odd, old urges burn
for words fresh from the master, breathing spirit. . .
The scent hits, and I hold my memory near it.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Maryann Corbett
would be pleased to hear them.