At ten, I had a friend my parents liked.
She was grateful, modest, kind, and truthful.
We rode horses behind my father.
Sometimes we played dolls. My parents wanted
me to be smooth and blonde like her.
Her father restored rare books for that publishing company
in Chicago. He unglued and glued, and stitched and restitched,
the last gasp rescue-inhaler for rare worn books.
He kept two white bookworms in a glass vial
with yellow flakes of papers with brown edges.
He smelled like our town library, the kids’ section
with the window seat over the ravine looking into the oaks
and the cement arch over the door. Where I found Jane Eyre
and Elizabeth Bennett and scooted aside Nancy Drew.
Climb into books to edge into a peddler’s wistful song,
see how a teacher changed one life, follow jailbreaks
or word-hoards shuffled into poetry. One summer
I practiced Trachtenberg speed mathematics
from a paperback checked out six times.
Some books speak in tongues of salt and sweet.
Show that cats can live inside the fur of dogs, that kingdoms divide
unequally, how bad men may become less bad or worse.
The girl with a scarlet A on her dress nursed a baby at her breast.
Between bindings, I mingle
with what time dries up,
mingle with women I could be,
don’t have to be.
Poet’s Notes: I visit our local library at least twice a week. It doesn't have the oak and dust smell I associate with libraries of my childhood but it has librarians who are kind and helpful. I recently heard Nigerian drummers there on a Saturday afternoon!