Collective Works

I get lost in the stacks.

It’s simple and I laugh.  Mouth open.  No sound.  I’m a scientist, a naturalist. I study words in their natural environment.  In my ears books chirp like crickets in high grass. I hold them sometimes with just my fingertips.  I remain attuned through the distant murmur of visitors. They don’t know. Well, some of them, too, must love as I do. Beyond my whispering mouth without sound there must be some saying too:

Heller… Have and Have Not… Remains of the Day…

The books whisper back to me, inaudibly at first, until I pick one up and open to the first page I see, hearing softly:

A deep feeling of triumph began to well up within me.

Yes Ishiguro.  Triumph.

There are more of them here than I could read in a lifetime.  An athenaeum mine.

I’m sure I don’t seem like an employee.  It’s been 17 plus months since anyone has asked me for assistance.  Instead most guests look up -quietly- and make way for me as if I were a blind person or faith healer.  This is my most usual pose, hands almost always extended to touch the rows of vertebrae, faintly; tickling the spines as they speak to me.

I came here seven years ago under the auspices of a friend, Agnes, who has since moved on to different pursuits.  I planned also once of venturing elsewhere, but have been waiting for a sign to leave.  Any such sign has not, and I expect will not, come.

Another flight down, from my stacks, the whispered answerer breathes:

God wants us to pay attention to his words and wants our certainty always to be strong.

Yes Julian.  Strong. These are the sacred cells of my Divine Love.  An enduring trust.

Anthony is happy for me most mornings.

He is an accountant and has a very different relationship with print.  Everything to him is figures, accumulations only meaningful as bottom lines.  I accept this in him because I love him.  We have been married for nine years.  At breakfast he files through the newspaper and I italicize any given word that grabs me with the occasional whisper:

Castro’s Cuba.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.  I was reading the back of your paper.”

“Are we still on for dinner tonight?”

“Was that tonight?”

“Yes.  Do you have plans now?”

“I might.  Would you mind going to a reading with me?”

“A reading?  You know that’s not my thing.”

“It won’t be long tonight,  I promise.  Not more than an hour.  You can pick where we eat after.”

“What time?”

“Seven.  Is that too early for you to get off work?”

“Possibly.  I’ll call you today, okay?”

“Let me call you.  I’ll be hard to reach today.”

I’ll be deep in the stacks; attending the sheep; walking: the shepherd.  Every Tuesday I inspect one section from end to end to confirm that numbers are cradled…

Corners nestled home…

Titles standing tall…

All must be easy to see by anyone with an eye lean over, tilt up.  My friends, these books, should not beg to be touched, but should be poised like paintings, filling believer and unbeliever alike with a question caressing finger.  Is the oil still wet?

My friends.  There is acceptance here if nowhere else for these sometimes fragile things: authors.  Henry in a patched jacket will not be ignored, and allowed to speak if he keeps his voice down:

There is only one thing which interests me vitally now, and that is the recording of all that which is omitted in books.

“Careful Miller.”

“What did you say?”

“I said I’ll call you instead.  I’ll be in the stacks today.”

“Yes of course.  Your stacks.”

My stacks.  Speak of my community when I walk.

Sister Anais…

Brother David Herbert…

Sister Muriel…

It’s as though they begin to stand.

No please.  Don’t get up.  Sit.  One at a time they whisper:

We’ve been waiting for you Rosalia.

Yes Rosalia.  Quite.

My name is Rosalia Ramirez.  I am a Naturalist.  Part of a long proud line of Philologists.  mi amor.

I dive into cascading words, immersed in sachets of syntax.  I know all dreamers, direct their words with raised hands, a humble and lowercase moses.  I hear infinite whispers.  I read.  I laugh.  I get lost in the stacks.

It is simple.