A Retired Gentleman
Crunching acorns underfoot, the high school boy
On summer Saturdays walked to the private
Rice Institute library which was open to the public
Though non-students could not check books out,
Stepping toward it down an avenue of live oak trees
Where boat-tailed grackles screaked and plumed.
He liked the great spaciousness of its several floors,
How air-conditioning solved Houston's humidity
For hours. Its quietness. Back then,
Reference librarians kept their voices down. And
The boy knew where in one reading room he wished
To sit: next to The Collected Works Of W. H. Hudson.
Sixty-three years later, though the leather chair is no longer
Eggplant-purple but is now teal green, boxy yet welcoming,
The man the boy became niches within arm's reach
Of those squads of volumes in the remembered tall bookshelf.
Shifting weight, the seat cushion altering with him,
He settles, looking up at youth from time to time,
With a Hudson outspread in his lap, musing how I would like
To write one more poem, this time a poem avoiding the use
Of personal pronouns. Without “I” or “you” or “we”
I would picture simply and well the excellence
Of Dent and Sons' 1922 twenty-four volumes,
Books of just-the-right size, with gray-green covers
Opening onto pages whose slight fragrance savors of England
For those who have sniffed many books, the prose
Detailing nature rambles, rare birds, quiet village scenes,
Most of the volumes still nearly pristine, so few takers-down
Having ventured beyond Green Mansions or The Purple Land
Or Far Away And Long Ago!
How relieved and delighted he is to have found on this visit
The seat in the nook by the tall bookshelf
Unoccupied after all those years he has been gone away
Though it is no longer eggplant-purple but is teal green!
Jonathan Bracker’s poems have appeared in Illinois Quarterly, Gay And Lesbian Review, The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, The James White Review, and other periodicals; and in several small press poetry anthologies, including Ian Young’s The Son Of The Male Muse and Felice Picano’s A True Likeness: Lesbian And Gay Writing Today.