You Freed a Book

Sometimes it is necessary to reschedule a date in order to go on a different kind.  The kind where you drive across 1st street bridge alone, and you are enamored by the small-but-potent skyline.  You will park in a fifteen minute zone in Downtown Los Angeles, furiously trying to read if at 8 o’clock the clock will strike safe, and your car will remain ticketless.  (Someone just tell me: will the green curb turn white?)  The kind when you walk yourself up and down Spring Street and look people in the eye, when possible, en route to The Last Bookstore.

You will walk into the bookstore and hand over your skater’s backpack to the bag drop man, who is dressed in black; you are not a skater, but you once owned a few skateboards. You will ask him if he can offer you any ounce of solace concerning the permutations of LA City parking rules and these fifteen minute zones, these green curbs.  He will offer you half-hearted sureties, and you will thank him.

Then you will bob and weave around the recent fiction releases, the history section, the biographical piles; you will give a faint nod to the large group hovering over the comics and the graphic novel area.  You will arrive at a very small section marked “Literary Nonfiction,” and then twinkle around to its backside: the two-armed shelves scribbled “Poetry: A-Z.”  You will fight the urge to Instagram the comprehensive list of all Pulitzer Prize winners in Poetry – as it is taped onto the bookshelf.

You will then have to make horrible, horrible decisions, decisions based on budgets you’ve already blown through.  (Do not tell D. Ramsey.)  You must decide between a nice translation of selections from Petrarch’s Songs and Sonnets–the ones written when Laura, the Laura was still alive–and Stephen Mitchell’s hunky translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Uncollected Poems.

Then, Alas! You will also wish to purchase Mitchell’s translation of Pablo Neruda.  You wonder, “How did Mr. Mitchell command such a linguistic faculty to stealthily remix Spanish and German poets into new being?”

You will settle on Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse, and, of course, on Petrarch.  The checkout woman will also offer you no solace concerning the pending doom of a possible parking ticket (your fifth in four months), but she will stamp your paper bag with sweet marks of freedom: You freed us from captivity.

And then you will exit, walking slowly back down Spring Street, knowing that it is important that you walk more slowly on certain days.  It allows you to think and pray in unhurried stillness.  There will be no parking ticket, and you will exhale for hours into 14th century Italian poetry.  This is Sabbath rest on a Wednesday.

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