Yesterday, I looked at my bookcase, the one under the window to the kitchen, looked at the two shelves of books I'd culled from the many I'd had in New York, all the books I'd used when I was teaching, many of which I'd had for over forty years--the bios of my favorite writers, the collections of poetry and books about the writing of poetry, the collections of essays on authors and the memorable stuff they'd written, the volumes on linguistics. These are all my old friends, still dear to me, still in many cases with pages marked with tiny slips of paper or articles from books and magazines relevant to whatever it was they were marking, pithy notes in my cramped hand in the margins, passages underlined that I had once thought important enough to underline. It struck me that no one else would give a good damn about these books. No one would pay even a skinny dime for any of them at that inevitable garage sale after my death. My kids wouldn't know what to do with them. Would any of them actually thumb through them to see what they could find? I've heard stories about eccentric old people who scattered twenties inside books in their libraries, an act designed to reward those who later looked through their books or simply the act of senility. I have no extra twenties to scatter but I would hope that some of my marginal notes are worth at least that much to a lucky reader. My thoughts about the probable demise of my books led me to thoughts about the demise of my thoughts. All those wonderful ideas and memories stirring around in my brain one day soon to be gone forever. I must have thousands of song lyrics stored in my brain. Why? And who but I care that I can sing along with thousands of songs or quote dozens of Frost's poems, of Emily Dickinson's, of T. S. Eliot's, of E. E. Cummings'? Nobody. I guess that's the main reason I feel the pressing need to put words on paper, so they don't vanish quite as quickly as words written on air. What a humbling experience it is to put words down on paper, words you’ve labored over, sighed over, pored over, sweat upon, wept upon, cursed, kissed. And when the child is finally born, the labor’s over, you think he’s so handsome. And onlookers turn away, with a look of disgust or pity, or a veiled smile, maybe a little chuckle behind masking fingers.
Hey! You! Is there anyone out there reading this? Or am I just talking to myself?