Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Audrey Kindred, treasuring my book
I woke up this morning dreaming I was wrapping my poetry books in Saran Wrap to protect them from dust and aging.  When I say my poetry books I mean my stack of Schistsong my first collection of poetry.  I feel like I'm going on a trip.  I'm waiting for the call from Sloan-Kettering.  Tomorrow I go in to get the schwannoma removed from my armpit.  My throwing arm.  The one place on my body I have always felt strong.  Alas.  The first one-woman show I ever did was in 1993, these words were in the subtitle: "My Throwing Arm."  I had a bucket of fifty pinky balls that I threw over the audience's head at an X marked on the wall behind them.  This was the one skill I was sure of, releasing balls, throwing at a target, and catching on a rebound.  The balls whizzing over the audience were dynamic.  I let many of them bouncing wildly off the brick stage walls of the theater,"Under One Roof Theatre," on Greenwich Street below Canal.  Among my happiest memories are walking to the theatre on show night.  I dressed as a worker.  I bought one of those canvass tool bags with leather handles you see in the windows of upscale tool shops.  I wore a canvass long coat I got at some stoop sale.  My life was an unpainted canvass, and I dressed the part.  I walked from the corner of Bedford and Barrow where I had a sublet to Greenwich Street down below Canal.  It was the walk of my dreams.  I felt I belonged in NYC and in the theater.   Going onto the stage to release my story and my balls was natural to me.

Last week I got a present in the mail.  I opened the box.  There was a handwritten note from the bookseller that read: "A Treasure For You."  I was surprised to find a first U.S. edition of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.  1929 Harcourt, Brace and Company.  I guessed it was from my friend Suzy, a high school chum, who has been supporting my health and writing.  I texted and thanked her.  What a gift!  Someone who knows me.  The book came on the day I received word I could share my cousin's studio with him in Chelsea, thus getting a room of my own a few days a week, to be back in the city.   I've never had a first edition book.  It was wrapped in tissue paper.  It wasn't as aged as some of my new books, the paper is better.  How to take care of it?  What to wrap it in?  What will become of first editions now in the age of digital books?  I love holding a book.  Like holding a baby.  When readers download e'books instead of getting hardcopies of my writing, I feel they are looking at a picture rather than holding the baby.  "A Treasure for You."  I decided I'd order some of my own first edition books and save them in the wrapping.  By the way, the first word of A Room of One's Own is "But."   I'd forgotten that.

Every September of my youth I had the seemingly gargantuan task of covering my school books.  I took Mom's brown paper shopping bags, cut them open, turned them inside out and wrapped each book in a careful way that the book could open and close easily with the brown paper tucked and fitted and taped to fit the book flaps.  I always made my own book covers, though I remember you could buy them in the store -- white with stripes in the school color and the names of colleges on them.  We never bought those.  We never bought anything we could make from scraps at home.  We didn't have dollar bills that were unaccounted for.  I remember us buying clear plastic to cover my workbooks.  The kind that sticks.  Books were to be protected.  To be treated carefully.  Respected.

I carried my books to school with a blue rubber book band.  Wish I had one today.  Somehow they worked.  And made a nice weapon if you needed it.  Walking home in the Bronx my books kind of bouncing on the band.  And when Johnny Denaro walked me home, he'd take my book band for me.  Carried your books from school was a pop lyric and something we actually did.  Everyone walked to school.  That too was the walk of my dreams.  As the cement blocks passed my black shoes and navy Catholic School girl socks, pulled up to below my knees.

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