The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of…
                                                                                                           –Billy Collins


As I read this latest work
of pulp fiction
A dusty treasure from the thrift shop
down on the corner
I am taking care
to notice every last detail
rubbing each page a little too longingly perhaps
Rolling every other word or so
over and over
in my mind
and my mouth
Listening to them spin and fall gently
breathing in their rhythm and their smell
Retracing the paths they’d walked,
trying to follow the track
but losing the scent
and the signs
and growing weary

Then getting a second wind and
Tightrope walking above the thrills
and through the dizzying plot twists
and clever word play
double entendres and tough talk
of the world-weary detective
etched on these pages
by an author on a relentless nightlong mission
back in those days of
admirable discipline,
out of the blue inspiration,
and manual typewriter banging.
Somewhere off in the distance
her ghost is
chain smoking still
with an unmistakably wry smile
taking a drink.  Coughing and proud.

I come crashing into
the final chapter of this book
hard enough to break bones
with its unforeseen conclusion
and despite some clever connecting of dots
I’m suddenly a little stunned
But shaking it off,
then holding still,
taking it all in,  and feeling sated and calm.

But in the wink of an eye
that’s gone
as a nagging hunger wanders back
pushing me quickly on
to the next book
beckoning there
irresistibly on the shelf
I’m tempted and seduced by promises
of even more convoluted intrigues,
more irresistible femme fatales,
and chasing leads to one edge or the other
while keeping the previous novel
near and dear
happy to have been taken vicariously along for its wild ride
Making a valiant effort to remember
the pearls hidden there
clutching them as tightly as a rosary
passing them through my fingers
rehashing encounters and lines
and descriptions
Trying like crazy not to let them meander off
not to drift away
holding it all fast like any fanatic would
nailing details to the walls and ceilings
hanging little elements up like mobiles or wind chimes
using them as odd centerpieces
in the drafty house
that is my brain

But all to no avail
For the ticking clock and the screeching urgencies
of our so called real life
and other sweet distractions rain down,
cracking open a leak in the roof
of this shadowy room of recollections
So tiny fragments float away
The insistent WHO did WHAT
and WHY,
The beautiful or tender or horrendous WHERE,
The fleeting mosaic of WHEN
and a bewildering HOW,

so seamlessly
interwoven with

Even the jolts of unexpected threats
lurking behind doors
or out there in the dark
A gun shot or a goodbye kiss
the glint of a knife in the moonlight
The many things seen through windows
whether it’s the literal facts sitting there solid as rocks
or quiet symbols doing back flips
or tiny red herrings flapping around on the floor.

All the emotions and personalities
and finely drawn physical traits
all dissipate now
Hang here in the air
as vague as mist
until they ultimately vanish
all too quickly
I’m sorry to say
And that book I couldn’t put down
that had me mesmerized
And tied to the bedpost
that had entertained me every which way
and had me all jazzed up
held on the edge of my seat
grasping every piece of the next utterance or scene or character
is almost gone.
How sad this being so enthralled
and enlightened
and amused
and then having it all dissolve.
Into my blood or bones?
Between my synapses?
Wondering now
what it would take to
reconnect with those fictional landscapes
to those passionate souls on the prowl
to those incidents and the pauses in between
to reconnect forever
whenever the spirit moved you
and again.

Renton, Washington   2017-2018

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