Thursday, January 3, 2013

To Someone I Never Saw & Will Never Meet


(It appears that the final chapter of yet another
Southern California bookstore will soon be written.
I used to hang out there pretty regularly and wrote
this poem a few years ago after a memorable visit.)

Cliff’s Books: a used bookstore
in Pasadena, California.

The middle of a lazy afternoon
in the middle of March.

I’m browsing in the back of the store
with my back to the front of the store.

I’m thumbing through a collection of poems that
a student who became an activist in the 1960s

and then a cultural commentator in the 1980s
wrote in the 1970s.

Its only saving grace is that it’s
both age & decade-appropriate

in its colossal pretentiousness.
I hear someone walk in & approach

the gray-haired man at the front desk who’s
a) extremely knowledgeable about books

b) helpful as well as friendly and
c) is not Cliff for whom the store is named.

The female customer
is audibly brunette.

Young Woman: By any chance,
are you hiring?

Older Man: I’m afraid
not.

Young Woman: OK … Vroman’s Bookstore is
nearby. Do you think they might need anybody?

Older Man: I’m afraid
I don’t know.

Young Woman: Oh. What about Book Alley? They’re
a little east of here. Think they might be short of staff?

Older Man: I’m afraid
I don’t know that either.

There is a brief
but decisive pause.

Young Woman: You’re afraid
of a lot of things, aren’t you?

The Older Man laughs.
So does the Young Woman.

Such sly impertinence gives me
hope for the future.




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