Old Books with Memories and Meanings…

Ah the smell of old books on shelves, row upon row, stacked on the floor, in boxes and under tables and in piles above… The local Book warehouse in the city I went to college in was an amazing place to spend an afternoon just wondering the many rooms and areas of this large old warehouse…

While I was in college, I would often come here to locate good deals, getting even tot he point the owner would recognize me, or really knowing my grandfather and uncle who also enjoyed to come to this book store… Here is where I would find great deals on old books or used books while I was in college… The cost I often found for an afternoon of looking would often allow me to save a fair share compared tot he new softcover books in the campus bookstore…

So while taking a few classes on poetry and being rather thrifty, I bought my books at the local Book Warehouse, often old hard cover books… I came across a signed edition of Archibald MacLeish, an American poet… This one poem I found to be interesting to read, and my grandparents and Great Uncle and Aunt also very much enjoyed it after supper’s end, while sipping coffee or tea and enjoying some of Gram’s pie or cake… They having me read it aloud for them…

I had done a photo and added this poem to it, matted and framed for my Aunt & Uncle’s 50th anniversary… And then just a few days before my Gram passed, I sat reading softly to her some of the poetry we had shared while I lived with them while going to the family university…

I still have this signed edition, one of the 500 he had signed so it says, the edges of the cover a bit worn of the 20+years of use… I think to the number of times I have just taken this off the shelf, quick reads of words that paint images in my head, touching a memory or touch of an emotion…

The Old Gray Couple

They have only to look at each other to laugh–
no one knows why, not even they:
something back in the lives they’ve lived,
something they both remember but no words can say.

They go off at an evening’s end to talk
but they don’t, or to sleep but they lie awake–
hardly a word, just a touch, just near,
just listening but not to hear.

Everything they know they know together–
everything, that is, but one:
their lives they’ve learned like secrets from each other;
their deaths they think of the in the nights alone.

She: Love, says the poet, has no reasons.

He: Not even after fifty years?

She: particularly after fifty years.

He: what was it, then, that lured us, that still teases?

She: You used to say my plaited hair!

He: And then you’d laugh.

She: Because it wasn’t plaited.
Love had no reasons so you made one up to laugh at. Look! The old, gray couple!

He: No, to prove the adage true:

Love has no reasons but old lovers do.

She: And they can’t tell.

He: I can and so can you.
Fifty years ago we drew each other, magnetized needle toward the longing north.
It was your naked presence that so moved me. It was your absolute presence that was love.

She: Ah, was!

He: And now, years older, we begin to see absence not presence: what the world would be without your footstep in the world–the garden empty of the radiance where you are.

She: And that’s your reason?-that old lovers see their love because they know now what its loss will be?

He: Because, like Cleopatra in the play, they know there’s nothing left once love’s away…

She: Nothing remarkable beneath the visiting moon…

He: Ours is the late, last wisdom of the afternoon. We know that love, like light, grows dearer toward the dark.

-Archibald MacLeish

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One Response

  1. What a lovely post – thank you for sharing. It put a smile on my face.

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