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82 the minnesota review Now I play the tapes you made in your Boston voice and hear it quaver reciting "Daddy." It didn't work—the clever jokes, the mummified love and hate— you choked on raw poetry. Which of us was wiser? From the bottom of the well you can only go up, or make a grave. Marc J. Sheehan The Library at Alexandria Each Tuesday morning the Lansing Public Library holds a used book sale. You follow the yellow and black fallout shelter signs to the basement, where a hand-made poster sporting a bear cub in a jogging suit welcomes you to the Book Burrow. Each Tuesday morning at 1 1 :30 1 enter and take a left at the third row of steel shelves to see which poets have this week been discarded. Lately a run on verse in Spanish: Borges, Mistral, Parra. Borges might say, in his lovely, pseudo-Platonic logic, that this library is only a part of that library composed of all the libraries that have ever existed—even the fabulous Alexandrian Library, destroyed, finally, after the fires and sieges of other centuries, by Christian followers of Emperor Theodosius ini 391 A.D.—much as he argued that all men are one man. That's what I wanted to suggest when I once tried writing a poem about buying used books, and how I often can't tell if their marginalia is mine or another's, what we might have been thinking when we underlined "The man, formed by the lonely life of the wild...," so that we're indeed led into that Borgesian labyrinth where some incarnation of yourself lays your hand to the pages of a book being eaten from inside by its own acids. Neruda, toward the end of his life, dismissed many of the political differences between himself and Borges. Though Neruda, unlike Borges, could not have remained silent among the ghosts of those who disappeared, among the official stories which explained them. Can either response—action or silence—ever end those acts to which the burning of books is so often prelude, is like those caged birds miners carry down into coal shafts? Downtown Lansing hasn't yet managed to kill off all the birds, though it's mainly pigeons 83 which strut and coo near the sorry modern mosaic of the library's entrance. Cavafy saw a mythical, Hellenic city hidden beneath the real, fleshy Alexandria he knew. Yes, it's a longer leap than faith can make from South America to the coast of the Mideterranean, or from Lansing to there, but it's shorter than from the real to the ideal. My own share of the latter's so small, no more than half a dozen boxes worth. It is to that grand library as a pool is to an ocean—a pool so small that not even a great wind can ripple it. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 82-83
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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