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On the Plaza de los Charcos Luminosos

1. The Fish in the Plaza
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Sutter Street, 2 a.m.

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After the Sale

Farewell, John Dewey!
Good-bye, George Orwell!
Tally ho, Gertrude Stein!
So long, Edgar Allen Poe!
The book sale is ended,
Yet you still remain,
Your fine words long unread,
Passed over by eager buyers,
Anxious for more modern fare.
Maybe you were treasured once
And occasionally enjoyed
In all those months
And all those years
Of sitting on a shelf,
But now you are ignored
And you must face your fate.

Did your owner die
And leave you
Unwanted by the heirs?
Or were you simply
Taking up too much room,
Just more clutter to be dusted,
Then tossed one day
In a cleaning frenzy?
Edgar--your spine is torn!
Gertrude--you have a loose page!
And you, Ralph Ellison--your cheap
Paperback pages are
Yellowed and brittle.
Look, I can crumble your sentences
With merely one fold.

Of course you were not singled out;
The buyers passed over, too,
Commodity Prices:
Canada, 1953
And A Demographic Study
Of Chinese Immigrants in California.
But I mourn your passing
More than theirs.
Was passion ever aroused
By their dry words
And columns of statistics?
I feel no qualms tossing away
Their lifeless phrases
And cold figures.
But you ... you?
Your blood,
Though thin and musty.
Still runs through your words

Now, I regret to say,
I have become
Literature's executioner,
Deciding who among you lives
And who among you dies.
Though you who escape this time
Shall surely perish the next--
Unless some buyer
Takes a fancy to you,
William Faulkner
Or to you,
Robert Penn Warren
Or to you,
The once rising stars
Of the literary world.
Who reads you now,
Georges Simenon, Mary Lasswell
And John Dickson Carr?

You are condemned,
You,whose fashion
Has come and passed,
And you, who were ignored,
I send you
To meet the cold bite
Of the recycler's sharp knife;
Your spines sliced off,
Your pages ground up,
Your words reduced
To pulpy greyness.
I regret, but no redemption
I regret, but no commutation

From SUL News Notes, Nov. 11, 1994.

Copyright © 1994-2001 Geoffrey Skinner. All rights reserved.
Please contact me for corrections or comments.

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