Pare the leather, thin the skin
where it must stretch and crease.
Then paste: the tanned flesh darkens,
wet and chill, fingers working
over spine and cords, into joints,
mitreing corners neat and flat.
Bandage the book in paper, let it
settle under weights, day after day
until the leather’s dry and tight.
When the time is right for finishing,
black the room, clamp the book
spine up in the beech-wood press,
the lamp pointing where to begin.
Hot brass letters and a vigilant hand––
an accurate blind impression.
Paint in glair with a fine brush,
lay on gold leaf, with level breath.
Tilt the light, shadows will reveal
the place to press the tool again.
Now, strike the gold––feel the title
word by word, bright in the grain.