How To Build A Book

“Ricker Pond” — Natalie Martell

1. The pages

Gather one thousand blank spaces. These spaces might be found after epilogues or in the stomachs of desks. They might be stripped from the underbelly of a trout, a bridal veil, a bone. They can be small or large. Perhaps tear a scrap from the milky sky, melt a string of pearls, peel the glint from a knife, catch a cigarette before it burns, or collect the frosted surface of the ash. Try unhooking the white belts of the American flag. Mix sugar, chalk dust, and cocaine and arrange it into a page.

Look for pockets of world that have yet to be filled in.

2. The words

Look for darkness now, a long slit of it, like the shadow of a flagpole. Pick it up, break it into pieces, and bend those pieces into shapes. The shapes need not be precise—rather, they should be ambiguous in a way that leads each mind to a separate conclusion. Stamp them onto the blank spaces in rows.

Or shove your fingers into the slit of darkness and pry it open. Let the glossed fabric of vision rip, spread its frayed legs out in opposite directions. Expose what is down where the dark drips—bitter and gorgeous, salted slips of the tongue, down into the jaws of what you fear you will find and what you never knew was there.

3. The binding

The most important part of the binding is the noise. Take the sound waves from two explosions—perhaps the crack of a gun, shattering glass, a scream escaped from pleasured lips—and string them onto a loom. Be sure to weave tightly—these covers must give their lives to guarding the words.

Line the left side of each tattooed sheet with a string of wax, then stack them up, using a matchstick to melt the edges together. Add the sewn explosions on either side. While binding, make sure not to let too much light in—otherwise, the darkness will no longer be readable.

Now, tell the pages something to make them shake with joy or sorrow so that they sigh when they are turned. It must make them aware of breath. Then coax the creak from a door and tuck it in, somewhere subtle between the footprints of ink, somewhere only a poet could find.


They’re rich on the northern rim
of the bay, with tide-pools scattered like coins,
salt rings on bronze teeth, diamond wreaths
or chains, and money plucked
from a seagull’s wing. Near the banks, the boats roll
in peppered lights—stained and drunk
on fortune, falling asleep
in their reflections.
The border is swinging back and forth. The border
is dissolving into sand. And now is when
the crabs come, like beggars and kings,
to dip their claws in gold.