This morning, I hastily grabbed my hardback,
1973 edition of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary,
with the binding on its spine worn off;
and lost my grip, juggling it in my hands,
when several folded sheets of paper slipped loose
from the X’s. How had I missed these?
Six sheets stapled together, with the heading:
Books to Read Before College,
listed in alphabetical order, by author.
My maiden name is handwritten in ink
on the upper righthand corner of the first sheet.
Little stars appear beside titles of books
I may have wanted to read or already had.
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Catcher in the Rye
The sheets are yellowed; the crease is starting
to tear. Each page has what looks like
a coffee stain spilled on the folded packet;
twin blotches, in the shape of breasts,
that have faded and blurred the ink.
Reading down the list today, I remember
devouring those classic novels as fast
as I could wield my library card; too fast,
really, to grasp their deeper meaning.
But, at eighteen, I already knew it all.
Of Human Bondage
All that preparation, that promise.
I wish I could beg that headstrong, naive girl
to slow down, to finish college, wait to get married.
But, she wouldn’t have listened. Instead, her education
turned visceral. I remember her screaming
at the drunk husband who didn’t seem to care,
that she was leaving; another sad story for the classics.
Her life had become the novel
she wished she’d never read.