Mohawk Valley Community College Library
I spent years in easy delirium searching
for despair and beating hearts on dusty shelves
in second-hand bookshops
fingertip searching while time stood still
driven by drunken hope
looking for that patient needle
over time those bookshops fell
musty smells and memories
treasures for us chosen few
the thrill is duller now
when striking gold online
I was an archaeologist
thumbing through lives
through hard-earned days
now I type and
my fingertips are clean
to end a twenty-year search
I ordered a Bukowski
I hadn’t wanted the search to end
not like this
I ached to hold that book
to roll the words around my mouth
before I swallowed
a week later it arrived
it had been discarded
from Mohawk Valley Community College Library
having never been checked out
I looked up Mohawk Valley
it is in Oneida County, New York
it must be a hell of a place
Readers liked to think that the books
talked among themselves in the dark nights
(as if each bookshelf were an encounter
group, an elderly thesaurus snorted
to itself), but the truth was that most
of them had nothing to say to each other.
The religious books, even when ostensibly
in accord, would always find minor points
of contention. Even books by the same
author disdained each other; later books
said that their predecessors lacked true
refinement, and earlier books bewailed
the rot that inevitably set in. As for
different editions of the same book…!
However, since they were nothing more
than distillations—slimming reflections,
if you will—there was never disagreement
between a concordance and its source.
–>F. J. Bergmann
If Emily Dickinson Had Used the Dewey Decimal System
126: the self
118: force and energy
363.8: food supply
341.6: law of war
757: human figures and their parts
How to Be a Poet
Go to the nearest library
page your way through the 811’s
stop to jot down ideas that explode like
firecrackers from your hopped-up mind.
Read more poetry
fall in love with similes
play tag with onomatopoeia.
When you land a good one
walk out to the park
to test your poem.
Launch it on an updraft
watch it sail over the roof beams
landing in your neighbor’s yard.
Take notes on her smile
as she unfolds your poem
and reads it
once, twice, three times.
Go back to step one.
My students aren’t supposed to read library books in class.
They’re considered a distraction.
And I get it;
no, I do.
There’s a lot to learn
on the way to earning a GED.
So I teach a balanced curriculum:
I drill the inmates on math,
assign grammar exercises,
and I tell them what to read.
But sometimes, I look the other way
—an accomplice in their illicit activity.
How can I fault a kid with 11 years left
for wanting to escape through Louis L’Amour and Dean Koontz?
Every day, I see unauthorized literature.
Some guys are repeat offenders.
I have to tell them, again,
to put their books aside,
until they’ve finished their linear equations
—a reward for their compliance.
“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
I enter the limits of a small town filled with people who can’t leave.
with idle hands
who outnumber me.
I’d rather their hands were filled with words instead of weapons.
So, if I’m not supposed to let them read,
then cuff me and stuff me.
Throw the book at me.
I’ll join the inmates on the yard,
and when they ask, “what’re you in for?”
I’ll sneer and say,
Ars Poetica: or why I am fixing the bookstore’s poetry section
Because I learned the alphabet
and I would hate to see the ten cents spent
on my public education wasted,
because if there is anything my Catholic mother taught me,
it was to let nothing go, even when it has already left without you,
because chaos must be brought to order
not to impose a will upon unsouled objects,
but so that what is important can be actually found,
because poetry has not died,
despite the eulogies published in credentialed journals and CNN,
because even if it had [,] relics and imitation has [have] more than cash value,
because despite my love of Christ,
Christmas music sets my teeth on edge and the distraction is right now
at this moment saving so many somewhat souls
from a horrible death involving an exploding Santa Claus looking figure
pelting all without prejudice with copies of Fifty Shades for Dummies on The Art of the Deal,
because, speaking of presidents, I am now living in fear
that if I don’t do something, we could lose
alphabets and with it language (already wounded)[,]
numbers and history and reason and science and yes religion casualties,
hooked to secret IVs in (I hope) God’s infirmary,
because I just can’t let myself die useless,
because I want to avoid any uncomfortable conversations with St. Peter,
because lack of public consciousness; a poorly paid, undereducated, and ever shifting workforce; and the name Half Price Books are no excuses
for mishandling, mismanaging, misaligning, misappropriating, and just plain missing
the water and air so necessary to a sacramental universe,
or if you prefer, strings of hope
on the unraveling ugly sweater of the new emperor,
I have been sitting on this busy floor, and after using the aforementioned education to properly arrange
these volumes, these drafts of lettered wine, these neglected tomes,
and then imbibed myself drunk on verses
in full view of God, customers, and the fatigued with my lectures manager,
and I apologize for taking up so much space
while you search for SparkNotes on Hamlet,
but I must take a stand of sorts (here on my old, pained ass),
and though you protest, I am trying to save you from drought.