Today in the university library, really in it, for the first time: no small excitement in going up to the third floor, and finding the right section—PR’s and PS’s—and finding it deserted, and flicking on the lights at the end of the aisle, and watching them illuminate the beginning of the shelves, then the middle, then the end.
Oh yeah, I said.
They stamp the books, really stamp them, with green ink, and at the exit, instead of a metal detector, a boy looked into my bag: Fred Leebron, Beth Ann Fennelly, Richard Yates, George Elliot.
How’s your week going so far? he asked, his hand in my lunch sac.
My week? I said. I forget about such things. I make soup on the stove, drink wine in the pitifully small bathtub.
I’m doing the best I can.
No, I’m not. I think can do better. I can write you back. I can be the girl you think I am, the girl you fell in love with.
Sleepless the other night, I happily discovered they have my little pink book in libraries! Look!
Every state in the country has a copy in some library, even Missouri, even Ohio, even Indiana, state that kicked me out. Yale has a copy! Harvard! What were they thinking? They must have everything, that Yale, that Harvard. I was disappointed to find none of the five colleges I attended or taught at has a copy (thanks for the health care, too, guys). I was disappointed to find none of the random copies I clicked on were checked out. Or missing. Or missing, paid for.
So…if you’re near a library that has my book, go ahead, check it out! You don’t have to buy it. I can’t afford to buy books, either! Check it out. Steal it. Throw it out a window on the third floor, and come back for it in the bushes later. And write on it. Please. Underline. Turn down corners. Disagree with me. Spill coffee or wine or tears.
Scar it like we are scarred.
Once I brought a book I was embarrassed about to the poet W.S. Merwin to sign. It was waterlogged, curly-paged, coffee-stained, marked up, his.
This book has been loved, he said.