‘Bookshelves’ and other poems
By: J.K. Durick
It’s something the way they line up
on the shelf, a bookcase filled with
them. Their titles and colors sitting
there quietly as if they are waiting
for someone to come over, pick one
of them up and open it and read it.
They’re like old friends, friends from
my past, friends who knew me and I
knew them, felt at home with them
holding them up, turning their pages
as their words filled in my life with all
that seemed important at the time.
But now they seem silent quieted by
age and their almost ornamental role
they play in the room. Perhaps they
remember me as I pass by or that
once a year dusting, I give them, hold
each for a second or two, sometimes
read its title and recall the place it has
through those earlier years. And their
silence can haunt the room. They have
become gravestones displaying names
that were once so important to me –
Hawthorne and Crane, Hardy and Conrad,
who else, Lawrence and Joyce, O’Connor
and Cheever and even Carver. The list
makes me sad. For some reason I can’t
go back and read them like I did when
they were new and when I first put them
on the shelf.
A small bird out there, peeps over and over,
peeping, peep-peep, then peep-peep
as if it can’t remember the next line
to a tune he or she once knew but forgets
what comes after the peep-peep part.
Repeats and repeats as if it wants to call
attention to itself or to call to a parent or mate.
Peeps its peeping in a low tree in a backyard
frequented by prowling cats and crows, even
an occasional hawk swoops down for lunch.
But this is a small bird saying its say, probably
not worth a predator’s effort. He/she keeps it up,
keeps it going, owns the afternoon and wants to
share the feeling with anyone who will listen.
If I were to build a wall I’d use
bricks, the off red ones, perfect
rectangles, the kind used for
mostly chimneys around here.
I’ve watched skilled masons at
work: precise, studied moves
stacking in patterns that come
into being as he moves row to
row, filling all of it in with mortar,
smoothing it out, then on and on.
Oddly enough, I remember a role
I played in a grade school play.
It was the Three Little Pigs. You
can almost imagine what it was
like. I wasn’t the wolf or one of
the pigs. No, I had a walk on part.
I was the guy who brought the bricks
to the smart little pig. I remember
thinking/saying that I had a big part
because I brought the bricks that
saved the day. If I build this wall, I will
not be walling anything in or out. I will
be just building it for the beauty of it.
The way each line of bricks leads to
the next and then next, setting up
patterns, creating something strong
and durable, something I can then sit
and stare at and know that there will
be something around that fits into
the patterns my life has made.