I have not been to the desk on the 5th floor stacks by the the Picasso
art books and the American Masterpieces books since that time that the cape fell down around me and I almost beat the children, threw the glass, and ravaged the family landscape. The smell of this cool, musty library and all these books---how I absolutely love the smell---but it reminds me of that peculiar season, and reminds me how quickly things can be perfectly normal and boring and then suddenly careen backwards and out of control.
There are four of us working in the stacks on the 5th floor today, far and deep away from the street, the city, and the 21st century. It is Tuesday. It is silent. We do not acknowledge each other. We are each in a corner, bent over a desk and facing a wall as if punished. We are the unscheduled and the reckless: the longing housewife, the sabbatical bishop, the recovering alcoholic sex offender, and the bipolar lyricist with a noose in a pile by his bag on the floor.
I live here now. It took me 16 years to climb the five flights of stairs and dip my head to step through the portal into this silent, cool world. To write this. First, the two lifetimes of nursing and birthing, loving and loathing----precious soft heads, monkeys in trees, darling little shoes, aww! Then the international peace days and Sunday choir robes, and walking down 69th every day at 3:25 and eberyone saying where does the time go? In the stained glass beauty is where the time went, by the altar with the choir singing Hallelujah. I am the poetry in your blood, He told me and I felt the weight lift. It happens for some. The rope uncoils, the weight is lifted and it is peace on earth.
And before that, so many years attending torch-lit carnivals and harvest parades, courting the spirits of genocide, attending the ceremonies of Shakespearean actors outing Chairs of Poetry, sleeping by the river with crocodiles and African Englishmen, carrying it down the Nile, living off the seeds and kale and composers on the lower east side, living off diamond-encrusted artists under trees and wheat fields, living off the backwoods blue dogs in the hills of Virginia...
All these landscapes crossed, all these rivers, oceans, years----amazing, they just sweep you along.