Death of the Bookstore; Helpless Angels

Death of the Bookstore
“Today,” the eulogist said
to the gathering that stood alongside
the large wooden box which enclosed the store’s remains

now suspended on straps above empty space,
“we commit this venture to the ground
from which all things are formed

of star fabric, and to which we also
will return. This one we loved
joins too many of its siblings

vanishing too young. But as the body
is not the soul, a bookstore
is not a book. What sustains the one

is not the substance of the other.
Let us then take consolation: books
flourished long before this shop

opened, and live on
though we mourn today a familiar presence
dispersed to ash and wind.

Let those who deny the soul, the human urge
to story, the gratitude and pleasure in the mind
as we read and listen,

proclaim that the book, like this shop,
is dead
and the author dead

and the reader likewise.
Every cult is founded on the nonsensical,
and this one’s believers find comfort

in closing their eyes to the word in the world,
as if the deaf were to chant determinedly
There is no sound. Clay tablets,

papyrus, vellum scrolls
all bore the word, but the bound volume
outmatched them. And accompanying the book,

the bookstore—that carries its titles,
as we say: the tangibility, handiness,
capacity to be shared

amid the silence in which the imagination lives
that no electron, with its ephemerality, solipsism,
electric fans and beeps, can equal.

So be of courage, though today
a diminishment saddens us.
We give that which we cherished

to earth as a bulb in autumn
with the sure and certain hope
that after the vagaries of icy winter

a stalk will arise that lifts
petals of cheering color and delight.
In our grief, let us continue to honor

the spirit once housed in this departed
whose like, no matter what reversal or glory might yet be,
we shall never see again.”

Helpless Angels
A trumpet’s fierce groan
unspools across the night roofs
an alloy of copper and gold
extruded to one long cry: a gleaming, undulating wire
while hesitant
first raindrops
touch pavement
seconds before the drum’s downpour: roiling sheets
of gale water
hammer on windows, siding, shingles
as a reed in a silver mouthpiece
cold presses air: autumnal notes
that amid the storm convert to
flecks of transparent light
through which wander crystalized small cubes
of sound from the keys of
an opalescent piano
—the audible sparks
smelling of rained-on kelp, barnacled
stones, rotted sea wrack amid tufts of
spume grass, calls of gulls and oystercatchers
and the inexorable rhythmic clamor
of the surf: the bass
insisting mine, mine
and every knee shall bow

But the trumpet’s
solitary flight
once released
mounts unrecallable above the black streets’
carpet of lamps,
buses, lone sedans, taxis
splashing down avenues that reek of
diesel, malt, sawdust
while the hunched neck of a sodden-coated
walker passes: love’s mourner
or late shift absentee
intent on surcease, balm
with hair and skin soaked
except for hands clenched in wet pockets
as each squelching step between the concrete’s
pools and rivulets
conveys him or her toward hope of refuge,

yet the trumpet’s phosphorescent ascent
drags behind it a weariness
that drum, sax, piano, bass
also attest to: these helpless angels
retreating upstream from grief, wrongs, bearing
that sadness aloft
to gaze down on the tower tops of
the immense river bridge, strands and railings
formed from beams of light, austere arcs
that across dark water
lift a shushing of rubber, metal, glass
to a final arpeggio:
feathers of a dripping crow
that on the terminal shore
glides from cedar to cedar,
its wings starting to whisper