The lady in a blue pants suit had a mean cane. She
tapped beat her way to the front of the line so she could enter the Reading Room ahead of us. That was fine with me.
I was still reeling myself back in from coming across Virginia Woolf’s cane in a display case on the main floor of The Library in New York City. Hers was bamboo-ish brown and found floating down river by her husband some days after she filled her coat pocket with rocks. Next to the cane was her last journal, turned to the final page.
What were the last words? Thin ink fading on the top third of a journal page. Though I wanted to feel the rhythm of her handwriting, how she looped and unlooped her letters, I didn’t want to read those words.
In the Rose Reading Room, we were met with soft light. Here was and here is the place writers come to write. Sunlight flows through the windows suggesting we write write write. We sat at a table further lit with brass lamps. The lady in blue was complaining too loudly that she deserved a security guard in the room. What if someone were to steal her handbag? Strip her neck of jewels?
And what of us, I thought. Who will guard us from her vent?
And what of our first words? What would we write if we came here, seriously, to begin the work of our next poem? Downstairs in the marbled entry strangers were peering through thick display glass, discussing Virginia’s cane.