A breath of awe by Chris Mann

In Grahamstown’s Public Library
I read that we are towers of cells,
trillions and trillions of sedulous cells,
each one more complex than a town.
I turned the page, once more amazed
at life’s deep daring and finesse.
The library clock ticked on, unfazed.
I learned that vast encyclopaedias
were racked inside a chromosome
and microbes moleculed the past.
In some a filament whirred round,
I read with disbelief, then shock,
more than a hundred thousand times
with each slow ticking of that clock.
Beside a book, a phone-screen lit.
Home time, it said. I stood intent
to live each day with greater awe,
yet walking out that reading room
I saw grey rain gust in the door
and anxious faces hurrying past
and huddled beggars, as before

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