Monthly Archives: June 2014

Today is the final day for Macondo Books, a local used bookseller that has been a fixture in Guelph almost as long as I’ve been alive and certainly as long as I can remember.

It was the place where I first bought a real used book, a keeper book, one that would sit on my shelf.  I had bought piles of trash fantasy and science fiction, of course, but it was Macondo Books where I went early in highschool, when I thought Samuel Coleridge and William Blake had rendered all other poetry worthless, to buy a hardcover collection of Romantic period poetry.  I still have it, in much the worse condition for having taken it on vacation into the northern Ontario bush that summer, reading it by the light of a kerosene lamp in the evenings.  I kept it, not because it’s such a terribly great edition, but because it was my first.

I bought countless more books there over the years.  I was intending to list the titles that I could remember, but as I started going through my collection, I realized that there were just too many.  I had gone to browse Macondo’s shelves too often: wandered too many times the hundred yards or so up from the market where I worked as a teenager, the cash I had earned waiting to be transformed into books before I ever made it home; spent too many afternoons avoiding my university work by spending money I didn’t really have on books I didn’t really need; went too frequently to find books as gifts for other people’s birthdays that were inevitably accompanied by gifts for myself, actual birth dates be damned.

I know, of course, that nothing, least of all a bookstore, is meant to last forever.  I know that almost forty years is a pretty good run for a bookstore at any time, never mind at a time as difficult for booksellers as these past few decades have been.  I know that there are other bookstores in the city (though far too few), one even as close as a block away. I know all this, but I still can’t help feeling a real sense of loss as Macondo closes.

I went in to say my goodbyes yesterday, bought a whole pile of poetry books at 80% off, books that I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise but that I couldn’t pass up at garage sale prices.  There wasn’t a whole lot left, not after a month of half price sales and no new acquisitions.  The shelves were pretty bare.  It felt like it was dying already, just waiting for someone to pull the plug.

I will miss Macondo Books.

My wife’s workplace has decided to show some documentaries over lunch breaks sometimes.  She asked me to suggest some favourites from my collection, because documentary is one of my several obsessions.  It was an interesting exercise for me, not least because most of my favourite docs are much longer than an hour, but also because I wanted to include a variety of time periods and directorial styles.  In the end, I settled on these, in order of release:

1) Song of Ceylon, directed by Basil Wright (1934)

2) The Plow that Broke the Plains, directed by Pare Lorentz (1936)

3) Night and Fog, directed by Alain Resnais (1955)

4) Vernon, Florida, directed by Errol Morris (1981)

5) Lessons of Darkness, directed by Werner Herzog (1992)

Feel free to let me know of others that you might include.

There is a certain kind of inspiration in people who are unaware, whose busyness has left them looser, less tidy, more themselves.

Hair Spills Out

Her hair spills out
from under her
cap, black cap, black
ball cap, black faux
ball cap, not all
spilled out, but just
enough to haunt
her hidden eyes.

I had occasion recently to remember a moment at a distance of many years, and so this poem.

A Long Ago Dream

I had a long ago dream
that we two were face to face,
and lip to lip, and palm to palm,
through a vast pane of glass
that made us separate,
and that to live was to walk,
our hands pressed and untouching,
hoping always for the place
where the glass would find its end.

There is nothing much to her, and what there is is poorly squeezed into black denim pants, but he wants all of it, so that even his tutored lesson in geology is a come on, may as well have been delivered leaning against the bar, one foot on the rail, one eye on her breasts, even while the other recites the textbook.

I have just finished reading The Hidden Room, a collection of poetry by P.K. Page.  There is much in the collection that I enjoyed, and there is much that I could take up further, but there is one small section that I don’t feel like I can leave alone.  Near the end of the collection, in a poem entitled, “Song… Much of it Borrowed,” Page writes,

God is a poet in a poet
a poem in a poem
and a word in a word

There is a real truth in this for me, that God is in the thingness of the thing, that the closer something comes to being itself and nothing else, the more it reveals what is God in it. It is not in any poet or poem or word that God is, but it is the poet in the poet and the poem in the poem and the word in the word. To practice the presence of God through art is not somehow to make art show God, but to make art be itself, and then God becomes its art. This is not an artistic technique or movement. It is a different posture before art, and indeed, a different posture before everything.

She wears cowboy boots that have never seen shit, wears them to justify the brevity of her cut-off denim shorts, and he has bicked away his pattern baldness as a last stand against middle-age, wears a tattoo, nothing visible, but there all the same, recent, sufficiently youthful and masculine, and he’s hoping she’ll see it tonight.

I have no introduction for this poem.

Transparent To The Sun

I don’t want to fly as birds fly, with beat
of heavy wing, or as insects, frantic
and desperate, but as the air itself,
effortless, though driven rough by the storm,
effortless, and transparent to the sun.

There is no perhaps in God.  God is and is not and is to come and may be and in every case surpasses our human categories of being and time, but there is no perhaps in God, because every perhaps is limited by happanstance.  There is perhaps only in the human.

I am flying, or hovering more like, drifting among buildings of a kind I have never seen before, but through their windows I can see the people I know, all of them, though they do not see me, and though there are no doors on these buildings that I can find, no way for them to come to me, even if our eyes should meet.