K.S. ANTHONY: Sitting in Poetry (original)

29 July 2012

Sitting in Poetry (original)

You probably should have just stayed in the corner with the reference books, giggling at Anguished English or reading the last words of famous people--Poe, Stonewall Jackson, some 18th century French aristocrat--before they died. But you didn't. Instead, you went to other corner of the bookstore where they keep Literary Criticism And Essays and Poetry because Malcolm Cowley suddenly popped into your head and you wanted to see if they had a copy of Exile's Return that you had no real plans of purchasing.

Why do these sections get tucked away in the corner? No one is ever in them. More people buy copies of Marie Claire or Men's Health than Sonnets From the Portuguese, though the fair Miss Browning probably holds a higher sales record overall.

As you step into Literary Criticism And Essays(home of essays by Orwell, the Fugitive Poets, and William F. Buckley, Jr.), you notice a brunette, maybe 25, sitting in Poetry.

"Sitting in Poetry" would be a good name for a class at Wellesley, you think.

She does not notice you. She is reading something: a slim book. You wonder what it is she's reading, but you also want to appear nonchalant. You don't want it to seem like you came over to hit on an obviously sensitive, intelligent girl who reads poetry. That would be boorish. You realize that you're wearing a polo shirt and chinos and you probably look like the kind of guy who makes a bet with his friends that he can sleep with the girl who is Sitting In Poetry and then break her heart. At the end of this movie, you realize that you actually like her, but by then it's too late: Flip, your best friend, tells her about the bet and she never speaks to you again...until you run into her later on in the summer when you...

What was the name of that movie, anyway?

She notices you fumbling around with some book in Literary Criticism And Essays. She looks up, your eyes meet, she smiles slightly and then looks back down at her book.

Pablo Neruda. She must be reading Pablo Neruda. Women love Pablo Neruda.

Maybe you should break the ice, say something off the cuff like, "I visited Neruda's house when I was in Chile last summer," and even though you've never been to Chile, you could explain it later, after you've been dating for awhile and it would become a big in-joke between the two of you. You'd be having dinner--tapas--with friends and you'd start telling Flip and McKenzie (Flip's girlfriend that he met in Aspen last winter or something) some story and Alexis (which is what you've named Sitting in Poetry) would chime in, innocently, and say something like, "was this like the time you were in Chile?" And you both would laugh while Flip and McKenzie sort of smile and order another pitcher of sangria.

Instead, you furrow your brow and put down the copy of shitty writing edited by Dave Eggers before she sees you and wonders if you're as big a douche as the guys who read Bukowski or Henry Rollins and fill cheap notebooks with lines about whores, beer, and coffee.

You're name-dropping authors to yourself and you feel pretentious.

She's pretty. Her eyes are probably nothing like the sun, but you want to defy the bard and say they are. And they could be, but at the moment they're locked onto the page and she's biting her lower lip, her fingers slowly peeling back the pages. She's wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but she probably wears gauze dresses with simple floral prints in the summer when she's sipping chardonnay and reading a dog-eared copy of Emily Dickinson while she picnics by herself under an old tree that her grandfather planted when she was born.

Then again, there are probably no trees in the city that anyone's grandfather planted unless he was working for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

You peek back over the shelf. She's closed the book and you see the cover. Holy shit. It's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Neruda. You knew it. You wonder if this makes you a jerk or if it makes you her soul-mate. You're pretty sure it's the latter. You try to think of something clever to say. As you're trying to remember a fragment of something, anything by Neruda, you accidentally knock over a stack of books on a small table bearing paper signs that say "WRITERS ON WRITING" and "STAFF PICKS." You're an ass. You kneel down to start picking up the books and you notice two pale arms in front of you, helping you pick up the copies of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King that have fallen. She has placed the copy of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair on its side on a bottom shelf and she smiles at you as you mumble something like "thank you" and haphazardly put the books back on the table where someone has left an empty Starbucks cup. She hands you one last copy of On Writing and smiles again before she picks up her copy of Twenty Love Poems and your heart begins to sing its own song of despair. She walks to the cashier and you watch as she pays in cash and leaves.

You hope that she will turn around and look back at you one last time and you promise that if she does, you will talk to her. Ask her out for coffee. See if she wants to grab a drink. Say something brilliant. Read the poems that she never shows anyone. Kiss her beneath the tree that her grandfather planted and fall asleep on a wine-warm April afternoon.

She doesn't turn around. And already you know that she has given you no further thought.

You find yourself alone, sitting in poetry.

Love is so short. Forgetting is so long.