Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nov. 4, 1977 Happy Birthday Linda, Love Mary

The book that Mary inscribed
For Linda is hardcover,
The 1971,
Third Edition of Modern
Short Stories
, edited by
Arthur Mizener, revised
From the 1962

First edition to contain
A few more Black and female
Authors, one sign of those times,
Published by Norton and aimed
Of course at textbook markets.
Questions appear at the back,
With Mizener's bona fides.

This particular copy
Hints at more personal use,
Given as a birthday gift
Six years after its printing,
Used but in good condition,
As now, a generation
Later, largely undamaged,
Taped dust jacket still on it,

As Sarah bought it, I think
At a used bookstore somewhere
Between Utah and BC,
For us to read this summer.
We've sampled items. We share
A fondness for worn copies
Of minor anthologies,

Obsolescent selections
Of out-of-fashion writers,
Writers wholly forgotten,
And still-stamping war horses
People pretend to know well.
They make good late-night reading,
Conversations, collage, dreams

And household objects we keep
Or travel with for a while,
Until we've donated them
Or they've fallen to pieces.
Last month, when I felt poorly
One afternoon, Sarah left
This one on the porch for me

To browse between fitful naps.
I didn't read much, just two
Or one-and-a-half stories.
Mainly I looked at the thing,
That inscription, trying hard
Not to feel too nostalgic
And sad as well as sickly

Near the end of vacation
In the green and pretty world.
Bees buzzed. Breezes stirred porch chimes.
'62. '71.
'77. All years
I was a living child. Who
Was Linda then to Mary?

The same questions always asked
About the anonymous
And semi-anonymous
Inscriptions that sediment
Like lost feathers, bits of moss,
And shed skins at the bottom
Of the small pond of a life.

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