I knew I couldn’t give them all a home
That they wouldn’t fit my bulging bag
Tipping the scales at the airport
And yet I took them anyway
Filling arms, filling bags, staggering
Hungrily seizing them from hands outstretched

Advance Reader’s Copy, Not For Sale!
I scooped them up by the armful from tables
Pre-Production Version. Not Final Cover Art!
Chatted up empty marketing smiles for minutes
Uncorrected Proof. Some Content May Vary From Final!
Willingly tolerated the sociopathy of sales, of salesmen

When the weeding began, they sat there forlorn
Lost among the folds of a hotel bedspread
I knew I would never read them
Too esoteric, too juvenile, too biased, too surface
The shelves at home are already groaning
Bursting with the unread but well-loved

I could throw them out
Tumble them headfirst into the trash can
Fill a recycling bin, emptied with both hands and a grimace
But as Iook at them there, laid out
Claimed but unwanted, taken but unloved
I find I can’t

The cover in bold red white and blue, advancing men in Smokey hats
OVER THERE: The USA in WWI
Orange and aggressive, a ballot box becomes a shredder
NO VOTE, NO HOPE: A juvenile guide to voter suppression
Violet liquid fumes before a heart-speckled chalkboard
I KISSED SALLY MCDEAN IN CHEMISTRY CLASS

Kennedy on the cover, hand in hand with the woman he cheated on
HISTORY OF PRESIDENTS AND THE THEATER
I know its author’s a cult leader, but the cover is cowboys and rocketships
TALES FROM THE SILVER AGE: Fiction From The Enlightened One
The vendor was a friend of mine, once, and I felt so, so sorry for them
INFORMATICS IN K-12 EDUCATION: A No-Frills Handbook

People poured hours of their lives into these
Put forests of trees into these
Artists for the covers, binders for the books
A whole industry behind each of them
Even the salesmen with mouths to feed behind the smiles
Their lives, their livelihoods, their life’s work in my reject pile

I gather them up gently into a bag that is itself rejected
Swag and tchotchkes aren’t guilty, but bags are different
A last pilgrimage to a conference hall already ebbing
My plan is desperate but with a gleam of hope
I lay them on a table, spread out to show off their beauty
The colors pop against the off-white ice

Then I leave, walking briskly away without a look back
They are babes on the orphanage stoop
Puppies wriggling at the humane society door
Awaiting only a little kindness to live their lives
Years caressed by loving hands
After the cowardice that brought them there

They’ll probably go in the trash anyway
Swept up with the rest of the detritus
But it won’t be my hands that put them there
I walk away a reader in spite of my crime
Believing in the comfortable fiction
In a reality that couldn’t care less

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements