The first time I saw a book abandoned in the street, I wondered what sort of book could be abandoned. What words would go unmissed? With each passing car, the pages fluttered. I regretted not driving back, geek girl that I am. Instead I wrote a poem. This was two years ago or more.
And yesterday at the art museum a Syrian artist explained the reason behind his artwork. On layers of fine linen paper he had burned the first surface to reveal the colored layers beneath. His English was passable, but not when it came to painful words. Rip. Burn. Reveal. And for those words he paused, looked to his American companion who would nod yes yes and offer up a quiet translation. Shoulder shrug, a sort of plea: is there a way to understand reveal can be painful?
Call it ripped, the way the inside can be revealed by an outside burn.
Cue the exit from the lobby. The forlorn walk across the cobblestones, these very bricks the city plans to yank out and pave the path with asphalt. I admit that was all I was thinking when I drove past another discarded book. It rose up too quickly, though, for me to stop. And I was unaccustomed to this 100-degree heat.
Another book, a different street. I would have rescued it but for the fire engine and its sirens. I could see it was a text book. And up ahead, an Indian, in Wrangler jeans and baseball cap–dead smirk stuck on his lips–sprawled sideways on the weedy sidewalk. A policeman–yellow shirt, black biker shorts–in blue latex gloves, unsuccessful in shaking him awake.
Waiting at the Luncheon Counter for My Tuna Melt
This is – remember –
this is not the way your life will turn
out as you listen to, as you overhear two old
men talk about Walter Benyen. One knew him well
the other was his nephew. He died
(didn’t he?) they ask each other,
reaching for a bit of dry toast, a sip of bitter
coffee with that same abandoned air you saw
in a man walking through North Park
holding an empty leash, and in the pages
of the hardbound book you saw fluttering
after each passing car, staying where it landed
in the crosswalk down the street. But you wonder
why a book gets tossed, if a dog is ever found.
You thought to stop to read the title, to search
for the dog, but you didn’t. And you don’t
ask now which one is Joe when you stand
at the jukebox, studying the note taped
to the glass: Don’t play G7 if Joe is here.
It brings him bad memories.
Previously published in Barnwood Poetry International Magazine and soon to be included by Aldrich Press in my upcoming book, “Cracking Geodes Open“.