I did something a couple of days ago that I’ve never done before. I bought books online from a shop in England: The Works of Sir Thomas Browne, published in three volumes by John Grant in 1927 in Edinburgh. Anymore, there are very few of these complete sets available. I’ve watched them come and go at prices higher than I’m able or care to spend. This time around. I was lucky.
An abandoned library without walls . . . Poetry that does not look like poetry. No wonder I was reminded of this oddity, this dream. And for the record, I still have the same wallet, and it is that much older, and all the more worn. We have been through a lot together. I will never replace it.
Dreaming of Books
From high on the only shelf in what seems to be a neatly carpeted but abandoned library without walls, I take down a very small, very thick, very old book. The print in the book is the tiniest I’ve ever seen. Somehow I can read it, but I don’t know what it means. Near the front I find a date: 1803. And on the inside cover, there’s a price written in pencil: $59.00. There are many other scribbles, but they are too faded and smudged to read. I wish I had the money. . . .
I’m in a small used bookstore. This place I know. I go directly to the poetry section and without even looking I find the same small, thick, old book. This time it costs eight dollars. Then I find two more old books; both are a little larger, and barely holding together. The contents don’t really look like poetry; this pleases me, because it proves poetry can look like anything and everything at the same time. I take the books to the desk by the door, behind which the owner is sitting, lost in a book of his own. To my left, I notice many shelves are missing, and that the open space has been transformed into a kind of sitting room, with one old leather chair, a table beside it, and a floor lamp for light. When I ask the owner why he made the change, he looks up and says, “That is a secret.” The total price of my books comes to sixteen dollars. I take out my wallet, which is much older and more worn than I remember, and completely empty except for the pleasant surprise of a twenty dollar bill. Without hesitation, I give him the money. I wake up hungry.
Songs and Letters, August 23, 2008