Bobby Fischer died today, which reminded me of my poem about the work I used to do; it was published (in an early draft with e few typos) on the web in a Library-focused and much lamented newsletter called Library Juice. Happily Library Juice is back as a blog: Rory, the Juice guy sometimes worked at my library, and asked me for the poem, which I had shared with him. Web publishing is an interesting and paperless subset of publishing. I'm not sure what my opinion on this subject is--I go back and forth, because I am so fond of paper and books.
Paul comes back from the dead.
They buzz me out to the Circulation Desk;
"Are you happy?" he says,
and I cannot stop laughing
and I am in his arms, his arms, his living arms . . .
I hear my mother, behind me, saying,
"I knew she could be happy . . ."
She visits me at the Reference Desk,
the woman with sweetest perfume.
She wants a map of Africa, particularly
one that shows the rivers.
After she is gone, bearing her opened Atlas of the World
with Geographical Features, toward the Xerox machine,
taking the rivers, but not the perfume, not all of it,
I stand there by the atlas case in a flower-field--
all the flowers nodding, nodding, nodding,
still sway where she has just passed through them,
the woman with sweetest perfume--
while the water-sleeked hippopotami are frolicking, frolicking,
borne up and splashing, shining; water sheets off them as they rise,
making a joyful horrendous noise, under the African sun.
Can I read her some prices
over the phone? and if so
what does this year's Jeep cost,
fully loaded? the four-door, not the two.
When I ask her how many miles,
she tells me 27 thousand---
I tell her--as she says, laughing,
how do you suppose they got
that many miles on it
in such a short time?
He is searching for Bobby Fischer,
he can hardly see any more
(so he wants me to read it to him.)
He remembers about twenty years ago
Bobby was arrested in Los Angeles
he can't remember the reason
and he wants to read about that
(to have me read it to him, really)
but all the books on Bobby F. are utterly
and the last one, a little more promising,
has no index
in which I might have looked up
Los Angeles, police department, arrested,
if not twenty years ago.
So I skim through the big chess matches, game by game,
until I find him, Bobby Fischer, on the outskirts of Pasadena
wandering alone, talking to himself,
no money in his pockets.
They took him in as a vagrant
and held him for a while at the police station
until they found out he was
Bobby Fischer, whereupon,
shaking their heads—I can see it!—they let him go.
There is only one paragraph
and it doesn't tell much--how he
looked, what he wore, did he smell?--
but the reading of it satisfies, somehow,
it is sufficient; he nods, and smiles, and turns away.
She needs some information,
not very much, just an encyclopedia or something,
about the Bahamas, where are they?
And what time zone are they in?
In the World Almanac, indexed under time zones,
is a map of the world about four inches across,
with the time zones shown in parallel bands of pastel color.
Starting from Florida, you can just make out Cuba and so the Bahamas
would be just about there, four hours later than where we are standing_
looking at a tiny, imprecise map of the world.
[A gift to Brenda Hillman, who
thinks the library might be poetry.]
June Hopper Hymas