Packing the Books

I came to New York to get what I could, but Success Stories shows what I had to give up. Maybe our life there was a way of subtraction that God might use to separate us from ourselves — not from the selves that He creates but from the ones that we make up, our egos that constantly fret, compete and compare. In my book, the last image is a library filled with empty pages. It seems to me like a kind of achievement, and I like to think of the book ending in silence, as close to the Truth as I could get at the time, standing on the other side of the glass.

Packing the Books

Another chapter. Eleven years of New York
madness is finished, and we’re moving away.
I cull out all the books I’ve read and forgotten,
asking myself what a man truly needs at forty five.
I’ve forgotten what little I understood
of Hegel and Locke, whole kingdoms
of plants, the meanings of quarks,
the Five Good Roman Emperors,
math, the novels of Proust,
and a rolling thunder of conjugations
in four different languages, even my own.
I save the poetry for last. Rows of aging
paperbacks with cracked spines,
yellowing pages. I look at the margins,
the furious comments, words underscored
two, three times, exclamation points … Oh what
was I trying to love?

In the middle of life, I see myself still waiting
outside a library deep in the woods.
I stare through the window: tier after tier
of books bound in white leather, and I understand
now that the books are empty, nothing
but soft, blank pages. I press my hands
to the cold glass. This is my heart,
this silent building in the dark fir trees,
and the lights are left burning all night long.

One Response to Packing the Books

  1. Happened upon your site via “Ruminate.” I am inspired and awed by your work, and apologize if that compliment seems unabashedly gushing. Mostly, however, I am pleased to see that a Christian writer can walk so elegantly the tightrope between artistic integrity and genuine faith. Mostly, I am sure you are aware, one or the other gets left behind. Pleased to have stopped by.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>