This week is National Library Week, but due to a crammed schedule, I won’t be able to fully appreciate or celebrate it. Yes, yes, I know I’m a huge nerd because I’m talking about celebrating National Library Week but I don’t care – I love reading and books so much that it’s worthy of celebrating!
My mother is directly responsible for my love affair with books and libraries. But really, isn’t it always my mother’s fault. As a child my mother took my younger sister and I to the library weekly. I remember sitting in the corner of the children’s section, a stack of books at my side as I pulled more from the shelves while my mom searched for her own books to take home. Even now my love affair with the library hasn’t abated, I get all of my kindle books from the library and considering I read at a pace of 6 books a month (yes, that’s more than a book a week, I’m aware of how stupid-fast I read), I’m constantly on the library’s website, checking out or returning books. Oh yes, I love the library.
Because of this love affair with the library I know exactly how I want to celebrate, even if that celebration will happen a few weeks after National Library Week: I’m going to tour the Library of Congress. I hate to admit that despite living in the DC area for 6 years (and the east coast for 15 years) I’ve yet to visit the Library of Congress. But it’s penciled onto my calendar for a Saturday in the near future and you can be certain I’ll share pictures and thoughts with you, my dear readers.
But until I’m able to peruse the collections at the Library of Congress I thought I’d share a poem with you – something that honors both books and National Poetry Month.
It was the first extra-curricular project we tackled upon moving in.
Already we’d peeled tendrils of wallpaper from walls,
sealed holes in window frames,
and slapped up paint.
Now it was time for something more.
I had a vision and you – foolishly? – indulged me.
When the carpenter came I saw him glancing at you,
looking at the man of the house to weigh in,
to provide direction,
or at least to curtail my wild notion.
You stood back and let me talk,
knowing this project was my baby and not yours.
A month later they were hauled in,
beautiful, custom-made, solid oak bookshelves
that ran from floor to ceiling, window to wall.
Their glossy surface gleamed and I hovered behind them as
they pushed them into place and bolted them in.
The workers walked out, my check in their hand and
I ran my fingers along the smooth surface,
caressing my new lover.
I leaned over and smelled the wood,
inhaling deeply as I tried to memorize the scent.
You stood watching me, intrigued by my reaction.
We made love on the floor in front of them.
I filled them,
made random stops at used bookstores and yard sales,
hunting for rare finds and dollar treasures.
I loved how they looked,
books stacked in artistic dishevel,
grouped in a way that only made sense to me.
Before I moved out I stood in front of those naked shelves,
tears streaming down my skin.
Choosing the books I’d keep had been a tedious task but I’d
pared it down to only two boxes.
I was leaving them behind.
I was leaving you behind.
I miss those bookshelves still.
Side note: If I ever win the lottery I’ll be donating a handsome sum to my local library. I want a room or a wing or the whole damn thing named after me. The Courtney Birst is Fucking Awesome Library. That has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?