We descended in waistcoats
ties and spectacles, twisting
fountains pens nervously in the lift.
The light thinned to a single flame.
We edged down passageways
lined with sonnets and haikus,
dug out rhymes, fully intact,
laid them flat on conveyor belts.
We listened to the mine: the scratch
and murmurs of the ages;
the drip of ink from the roofs.
We broke into rooms of rock
supported only by fragile
pillars of words and saw the ghosts
of old poets sat at desks,
taking down what they heard.
The air was foul with damp.
Some poems we found glowing,
perfectly formed, there for the taking
glistening roundels chipped
straight out of the rock.
Others were in fragments,
cut off in a moment of brilliance.
There were occasional disasters.
Along the seam where we found
the epics, a roof fell in and six poets
were entombed in Ancient Greece.
Each day we emerged like newborns,
blinking in the light, clutching pages,
our faces blackened with print.