My Library

16 April 2018:

Almost a year ago, when Jess and I moved apartments, I found a couple bookcases someone was giving away online. I spent a whole afternoon filling them. I placed Leopold next to Muir, Jung next to Aesop, Hemingway next to Dickens. I enjoyed the order, the organizing. One shelf for Kerouac, one shelf for anthologies alphabetized along the bottom. Two rows of poetry. One row for over-sized books on the American West, one for essays, magazines, journals. On the top I placed a tambourine and ukulele—instruments to pluck and tap against the silence when words don’t come. Instruments to fill the gaps.

I think my Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg—as dense as it is—looks good on the top shelf, sideways and flat. But not everything makes sense. You see, I have a book about Yellowstone next to Jo Ann Beard’s The Boys of My Youth. I have The Catcher in the Rye next to Zen Flesh Zen Bones. I have a book called Kerouac in Florida, by Bob Kealing, holding up Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time—leaving me to wonder what Orlando or Tampa could ever say to Oklahoma. (Where are all the trees? The color? How far to the ocean?)

I have a new desk, too, though I kept my old chair. I have my new 2018 calendar pinned up by the office window: each month a new landscape. I keep a few books spread across my desk. This afternoon I have Alexander Long’s Light Here, Light There, as I—again—try to understand the prose poem. I have Judith Kitchen’s Distance and Direction, as I try to understand how memory moves through our days, how memory ties us to a place, how picking up and moving leaves us born anew, for better or for worse.

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