Friday Poem

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.”
by Tom Wayman
from The Hudson Review
Summer 2015