another book, a different street

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“.



About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

20 responses to “another book, a different street

  1. Mike Harrell

    Really looking forward to this. Congratulations, Sherry!

    • redmitten

      mike, thank you! you’ll recognize some of the poems in this, and i thank you (again and in advance) for the many ways you helped these poems come into their own.

  2. Thanks for the poem, glad about the book!

  3. Thank you for the post, the poem – the note about Joe. Yes, congratulations on the book. I feel your company when I’m here, taking notice of what some would consider small things, taking them seriously. xo

  4. Rose Hunter

    Triple, quadruple like with adobada on top! 🙂 🙂

  5. Oof, that empty leash. Goodness that makes my heart ache. But my heart is buoyed, too: Cracking Open Geodes! Congrats, Sherry. I look forward to it!

    • redmitten

      klala- thank you! that empty leash haunts me. yesterday when i was driving home in a cleaned derby (he got hit with fire retardant the day before)i saw a black dog confused and stopping traffic. i pulled over and called to him- he was my neighor’s dog. he wouldn’t get in derby but he did let me herd him home at 2mph and flashers flashing. the neighbors were gone so i brought him inside with me. my pups thought i’d brought them a new gift.

  6. Once, when I was 11 I found a first copy of ‘Mien Camph’ by Adolf Hitler. I could see why someone would throw that one in a ditch. I gave it to my Uncle who was obsessed with Nazi history. He had a German war helmut he used as a stool by his fireplace where he would sit…
    Congrats on the book!

    • redmitten

      kerry- what memories! when i was that age we found an old outhouse near my grandmother’s new cabin. the outhouse was filled with old textbooks. my brothers and i couldn’t comprehend why anyone would do something like that with BOOKS! and thank you for the congrats on the book- it is going to be out sooner than originally scheduled!

  7. I once came on a photo album in the street, yellowed pictures from a couple generations ago when cameras could see an openness and kindness in people’s faces that is rarer now. It was strewn across the roadway, a small, one-way city street. Some cool booty, I thought, but it would have been stealing somebody else’s memories, so I gathered all the pictures together and left the album on the sidewalk. Maybe it fell off the back of somebody’s truck while moving and they’d be back to retrieve it. I did take one of the pictures, of a group of plumbers proudly posing outside their shop, because my grandfather was a plumber and they all had his same naively brazen expression. Three cheers on the new book, Sherry; looking forward to it.

    • redmitten

      oh wow, tim- that is quite the story and even more so that you felt you were stealing memories and left the album there. do you still have the plumbers’ photo? i can’t describe what comes over me when i look at old random shots. i feel like i’ve slipped into another time. thank you for the cheers on the geodes book! it used to be called “loss of ignition” but i was talked out of that title some time ago- the book, apparently, deals more with ignition than the loss of.

  8. Kerry

    P.S…Sherry…here s what my cousin said about the Cusicks…
    I just read the comment re someone knowing a family of Cusicks. I don’t know if you know where the Cusicks lived. Apparently when they first came to USA, they were in New York (I think in the mid 1770’s) then moved to Michigan in the early 1800s where Melissa was born in 1850. She and John Franklin Oviatt were married in California in 1877 and lived there and in Oregon. They both died in California, Los Angeles, I think. This, as well as the fact that Granny Cairns ancestors arrived in Milford Conn., around 1631, has made me realize that we are related to an awful lot of Americans.

    • redmitten

      kerry, thanks for this! in my geodes book is a poem about a young man named cusick and i’ve never heard that last name again until i read your post.

  9. Sherrie, I’m so glad to find out about your blog (with a name I love!); I haven’t gone back very far yet but I appreciate both the prose and poetry here very much. Thanks a lot for leaving a comment on my site!

  10. I really like your poem which to me is like watching a really good short film.
    “He died (didn’t he?)”—what a fertile line.

    • redmitten

      john- super to hear from you. thank you. you know what, that’s the way it comes to me, too–as though watching a short film.

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