Chimera Song Mosaic
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Dialogue of the Happenings in Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2003:

Me: Hi. Do you have Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red?
Shop mistress: Everything is listed alphabetically.
Me (to Lance, husband): Can you see the top of that shelf?
Lance (to me): You're crazy. The ceiling is 14 feet high. {pause} You have 11 more minutes.
{I panic and run to the French language section, not looking for French language texts, but not wanting to look like I can’t find my way around an excessively tall closet stocked to the gills with poetry of the fairest, of the rarest . . . if closets can be said to have gills.}
SM (in a crabby voice): Did you want something in French?
Me: No, thanks! {I spaz out and start grabbing things off the shelf that look recognizable. I spy a copy of Timothy Donnelly's Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit.}
Me: Hey, I have been looking for this.
SM (snatching it away): You can't have this. Someone special ordered it; it's the last one I have. {she goes back to sleep.}
Lance (whispering): Let's get out of here . . . she is freaking me out.
Me (in a timid voice): Can I get these? {fanning some books out for the Shop mistress's approval}
SM: Uggh. {she takes each book one at a time and slowly keys them into her register. When she is finished, she looks up and speaks to L.}
SM: It looks like your friend has something in his pockets.
Me (thinking she means me): Oh, no, it's just a guidebook. {shows Time Out! Boston}
SM: I said your friend.
Lance: I don't have anything. Look. {empties his pockets}
SM: Looks like you passed something to your friend while you were looking in the French section.
Me: I wasn't looking in the French section! I was looking for . . . {gives up}
SM: I saw you looking for something in the French section. It looks like you passed it to your friend.
Me (panicking): I don't read French!
Lance: You have a video monitor. Why don't we just rewind it to a few minutes ago and look at it?
SM: Uggh. {gets up and walks to monitor VCR thing. Presses rewind. All silently watch what happened one minute ago, when D. throws her hands up in a non-French gesture.}
{SM presses rewind again, and all watch while L. empties his pockets.}
{All watch while D. shows copy of Time Out! Boston.}
{All watch while SM keys books into her register.}
{D. hands books to SM}
{SM snatches copy of Timothy Donnelly's Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit from D.'s hands}
{rewind, rewind, rewind}
{Man enters looking suspiciously like "Famous" Seamus Heaney. The date has changed to March 14, 2003.}
{rewind, rewind . . .}
Lance (gently): You've gone too far.
SM (looking at him, surprised): This is how you do it. But this machine never shows me what I want to look at. {presses more buttons}
{All watch themselves watching themselves watch the video surveillance television.}
{L. has a mini-stroke of impatience}
Me (in an ice-breaking way): Do you have John Yau?
SM: Yes--middle shelf--right there. Where have you heard him read?
Me: I haven't. I'm looking for a poem called, 'Castor & Pollux.'
SM: You don't know which book it's in? Radiant Silhouette? The Sleepless Night of Eugene Delacroix? Borrowed Love Poems?
Me: I don't know. Maybe Borrowed Love Poems.
SM: Doesn't sound like it. Try Genghis Chan: Private Eye.
{L. is itching to get his hands on the VCR}
SM: I wish I could show you that part in the tape. It really looked like you passed something to your friend while you were in the French section.
{D. is frantically reading the table of contents in all 9 of the John Yau books}
SM: You'd be surprised at how often people try to steal things. They will steal things they don't even want.
Lance (can’t take his eyes off the VCR): I know; it's crazy.
SM: He comes in here from time to time.
Lance: Who?
SM: John Yau.
Lance: Uggh.
SM: How did you hear about that poem?
Me: In a workshop. In graduate school.
SM: Oh? Where did you go to school?
Me: The University of Montana. I have an MFA in poetry.
SM: Oh, yes. Did you find what you are looking for? {she approaches shelf}
Me: No. But I think I'll get one. Which one should I get?
SM: Let me see . . . {her finger skims the spines of several alphabetically ordered books. It lites on a book published by Black Sparrow Press. She unshelves it and hands it to D.}
SM: Here you go. You kids have fun now.
Me: Thanks!
Lance: Bye!
SM: Goodbye. I'm sorry I couldn’t show you the place on the tape where it looked like your friend passed you a book.
Lance: That's okay. Goodbye!
Me: Goodbye! Thanks for your help!
SM (smiles): Uggh.
{L. and D. pass through the door to the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Inc., and head out into the chilly Cambridge evening. They duck into a restroom on campus and then head off to the Plough and Stars to look for Seamus Heaney.}

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