The Used Bookstore
“Buy-Sell-Trade” reads the faded sign
over the door where an old bell clangs
when I walk in from the rainy street
and the teenaged cashier greets me with a nod
as I carry my books in an old Utz box to the counter.
What have you got?
Here’s a hardbound copy of Plato’s Republic;
it’s old, but in good shape, save
a few notes scribbled on the margins
to translate the translation
for a nervous young mind.
Three dollars cash, or five dollars credit.
Here’s Love in the Time of Cholera,
a paperback, good as new, save
the inscription on the title page
in faded pencil, which reads,
“To Jocelyn, love Mark.”
One dollar cash, or four dollars credit.
This is an old cookbook;
its cover’s dusty with flour and molasses,
but the inside’s unscathed save for
“Cindy’s favorite” and the heart
next to the recipe for blonde brownies.
Two dollars cash, or six dollars credit.
Last, here’s a National Geographic book,
whose pictures of Africa and Australia
are nearly as big as the coffee table
in my apartment where I kept it for years,
looking through it and saying, “Someday.”
Eight dollars cash, or twelve dollars credit.
They Told Me To Be Honest
Listen to me:
I am not what you are expecting.
I will have you running until your feet are petrified by overgrown pebbles and your throat is crawling on all fours. I will chase you through ocean tantrums and have you bleed through the rapture until your heart is a slave behind corroded ribs. I will make you confess with bare-boned honesty with your head between your knees− purple kneecaps jutting from your joints. And I will not stop until you are terrified and exposed.
I will have you dancing to the tired rhythm of shaking symphonies in this fiendish ballet while letting you go mad with a genocide of words. I will teach you the art of silence while bombs detonate in cities and have you surrender to the seduction of words breathed through cigarette smoke. I will force you to listen to the sound of disasters when you trade your soul for a suit while your mind is captured within kaleidoscope fire. I will show you the cruel science of transforming beauty to be reborn as pain. And I will not be kind.
I will have you swimming until you have stripped out of your skin and have felt the aching wounds of acid on flesh. I will give you the surge of black noise in raging hurricanes and watch you until you have stopped crawling and have learned to walk. I will let Death offer his robes to you and let Time deceive you in his eternal game of chance. And I will not speak anything but the truth.
So I dare you to know me, and
And believe me, you will wish you did.