Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking at My Bookcase

I cannot double-click my mouse
to access the contents.
Characters and plots,
pressed hard and coated with dust,
call in muffled voices
like patients at the state asylum.
“We’re alive,” they say.
“Why does no one visit us?”
Only Emily Dickinson remains silent
as she lies in her coffin yet again,
suspecting she has already died.

I sit quietly,
as in the last pew of a church
where the faithful have left for the parish fair,
for Ferris wheels and whirl-a-gigs.
The only search engine is my index finger.
There is easy access to the cosmos before me,
the sum of all creation having been cast forth
by leaden slug-type
for older times, older brains.
My spine is embossed with decades
like the epic tales huddled before me.

“It is good to be here, Lord,” I say,
echoing Peter’s rapture.
Moses and Elijah say nothing.
Mystery and awe are fit companions
for a Saturday afternoon transfigured
by the textured feel of a page.

23 comments:

Scott from Oregon said...

There is always something overwhelming and yet comforting about staring at one's bookcase.

I had to get rid of mine, it was nagging at me when I wanted to be outside kicking soccer balls.

I wrote this poem while staring at a bookcase and thinking of a girl... I hope I remember how it goes--


Shelf life-

There are too many words
on my shelves to remember how
your hands went cold and
you wanted to run.
Kundera tells me
"Life Is Elsewhere"
and I believe him now
but I do not remember
the protagonist's name
nor the storyline
nor where I was
when he spoke to me.

Guilt lies hidden
as a word
forever lost
in romance and tragedy
mystery and comedy.

What are vocabularies for?
These words that masquerade as understanding.

What lives created and set to live?

Ensconsed in our own stories.

It's all in the heart, I've felt.
Words don't say "I'm sorry".

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Excellent, - it was like an electric shock of recognition reading the first line. Rather like (not) hearing the canary down the mine.

Once its easier to pre-browse material online, I'll increasingly read texts this way; I've recently dispensed with half my larger books due to lack of storage space and problems with lifting.

Interesting how many things Star Trek prefigured - including books as valued objects of curiosity.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

PS - I didn't miss the point re the satisfaction of reading the genuine article - just jolted into an awareness of the extent of the chasm which is opening up....

ChristineEldin said...

I love this! I'd print it out and put it in a nice from near your bookshelf.

jason evans said...

Surrounded by the comforts of your book family.

It's a slower, more restful existence than the rush of the internet.

Charles Gramlich said...

Loved the last line. Makes me think of my Sunday afternoon this week, when I spent the whole afternoon reclined on the deck periodically switching between twoo good books, one fiction, one nonfiction

Billy said...

Scott, that's damned good. No BS. I hope you have more of those gems.

Julie, yes, the chasm is getting bigger, expecially with Amazon's new digital reading platform coming out soon (forgot it's name). And LOL--yes, Star Trek did predict much, from e-books to cell phones.

Christine, thanks. I think I'll do just that--print it out and put it near the bookshelves -:)

Jason, I literally think my blood pressure drops when I can pick up a book and stay away from cyberspace for a spell.

Charles, I'm with ya on that. If there's a greater pleasure than handling a book on a lazy day, I don't know what it is.

Sarah Hina said...

No Kindle for you, Billy? ;) Me neither. Not yet, anyway.

This poem contains such a quiet restfulness. The greatest mysteries, and rapture, are found within books, and ourselves. I loved the lines about Emily Dickinson, and comparing your spines to those of the books.

There have been times when I've looked at my bookcase, and teared up. Just for the memories, for all those "muffled voices."

Great poem, Billy.

Lane said...

Perfectly lovely.

Nothing compares to 'the textured feel of a page

Can you imagine gazing at your Kindle in the same way?

Billy said...

Thanks, Sarah. And no Kindle for me. Am I getting old? LOL

Lane, I love to go to the French Quarter and buy old books, some only costing a dollar at the "used stores." Old, yellowed pages have more character.

Lana Gramlich said...

Ah, the simple things in life. :)

Marja said...

Your poems have a big wow factor.
I loved the line "my spine is embossed with decades..."
I love the texture of paper too. I love books and got them all over my house. My dream is to have a house with a porch, a comfy chair and a pile of books next to it and you won't see me anymore.

Scott from Oregon said...

Tanks! (and artillary!)

I am one of those poem scribblers who can only remember them- as in this case- when I am reminded of them from an outside source.

They are a bit like Chinese fortune cookies for me...

Billy said...

Lana, the simpler the better. Wordsworth has a great short poem--"The World Is Too Much With Us." I recommend it to everyone -:)

Marja, Ihank you! I added the "spine line" at the very end because I felt the poem was missing something. I'm glad I did:) The house with the porch sounds good too. In fact, I have a poem about sitting on such a porch that will one day make it onto this blog.

Scott, sounds like a good name for a blog--Poem Scribbler !!!

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Billy, as far as I know Kindle is out
- & or certainly sold out on pre-order in the states, and there are other variants plus a small laptop which are viable competitors.

Last time I checked they have 90k titles in stock - and a publishing platform.

Monique said...

One word Billy ... WOW

Billy said...

Julie, thanks for the info! Much appreciated.

Monique, you are so kind!!! Thank you!

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

PS - I thought Macca would appeal to you - relatives of friends were near neighbours to the windmill and knew the McCartney's when Linda was alive.

That's going back some years, of course. Small puddle, Britain.
Someone I was chatting to today said Paul is currently in a village called Peasemarsh, as far as he knows.

NB - Think I'm right in saying that Cambridge University Press have recently signed up for Kindle - or certainly one of the ebook variants - if you're interested.

Billy said...

Thanks again, Julie, both for the info on Paul and Kindle!

'soulless' said...

I most loved the mention of sitting in the last pew of the church after the others have gone. I used to do that when I was a child (my grandfather was the pastor at our church); it was a precious moment of contentment. So I get the analogy with looking at an array of books, poetry books in particular (since, somehow, looking at the law books half of my personal library doesn't seem to give me the same feeling of peace, heehee).

“It is good to be here, Lord,” I say

I echo the same sentiment. Thank you for an uplifting read.

Billy said...

You're wlecome, soulless. Thanks yet again for the comment. I hope you'll stop by again.

Sandy Carlson said...

I love this. You have captured the magic of the book so beautifully, Billy. How we become them and they, us, and how we lose track of ourselves when we forget what exactly a book is. We forget books are things we touch in the same way we can forget that words touch lives. Thanks for putting your words to beautiful use and issuing this beautiful reminder via an electronic medium! God bless.

Billy said...

Thanks, Sandy. I have loved the feel of books since I was a young child. And yes, we become them, and they us. A perfect way to put it :)