November 17 Poem

Page 836 of this big novel,

propped open on his lap,

cradled in his hands

like it is some precious

object. The corner of one

page quivers in the artificial

breeze of the cabin, and

every minute or so, he

carefully turns the page

like it is an ancient

manuscript. Now a swath

of light slants in from

the window and illuminates

half of one page, lit up

with heavenly light,

like a gift from God.

 

I wonder what the book

is about, what world he

has entered, what story

and characters have so

captivated him. His face

remains expressionless,

but there must be something

there, something about

those words on those pages

that has drawn him in,

allowed him to leave this

world for so long, now on

page 844. Now a new

chapter, ‘not such a bad door,’

What could that possible mean?

 

Now he is dozing off, his

tired hands draped over

the open pages, like lifeless leaves,

barely holding on, as if all his

strength has left him,

the book now aslant on his

lap, sliding slowly toward

his knees, but just as it

edges toward the abyss,

he stirs, grasps the tome

in firm hands again, looks

down, and slowly turns

another page, then another.

And still I wonder where he is,

where that thick story has

taken him, where it is leading

him now, how it has pulled him

into a fictional world, cutting

off the outside world, as he

seems to be oblivious to his

surroundings.

 

Sometimes its the big,

sprawling books that

make me smile the most.

I remember long trans-pacific

flights buried in Don Quixote

or the Canterbury Tales,

oblivious to my surroundings

cradling those volumes like

they were babies, only pausing

to eat or get up to stretch, and

each time, carefully marking

my place, and gently setting

the book down, then hurrying

back to my fictional worlds,

those wonderful temporary

escapes from the present.

 

And now I am longing for

a thick, heavy book that I

can hold in my hands,

feel the weight on my lap,

that I can carry around with me,

to read over breakfast

in the corner café, on

the train, in long lines,

in waiting rooms,

the corners getting soft,

the occasional page splattered,

the cover with an angry crease

across one corner.

It becomes your companion,

becomes an extension of your hand,

and you regret, just a little,

when you come to the last

page and you reluctantly

place it back on the shelf,

and you feel a little guilty,

like you are abandoning

an old friend, when you pick

up that other neglected book

on your shelf, tuck it under your

arm, and walk away.

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