I do not read books,
I absorb them.

I bring them home from thrift shops,
From library book sales,
From the few remaining bookstores.
They come in the mail
From online booksellers who no longer have stores,
Who never had stores.

I carefully lift off price tags,
Dissolving and removing adhesives,
Erasing random careless markings,
Mending book jackets,
Unfolding and ironing creased pages,
Bent page corners.

I take the book in hand,
Savoring its weight and dimensions,
Marveling at the number of pages the author has filled
While struggling to maintain the interest of the reader
With every page,
Every sentence.

I look at the copyright page,
Determining popularity by number of editions.
If the book is somewhat rare or otherwise notable
I may research the title to see if it is a first printing,
If it has some monetary value.
If worthy, I will reinforce the jacket with a plastic cover.

If the book is especially notable
For some public or private reason,
I will place it in segregation with my other titles of distinction.
But if it is a common edition,
It will likely go on shelves alphabetized by author,
Or those organized by subject matter.

If the work is exuberantly praised and widely read,
A favorite of the literati,
The cognoscenti,
It will join other such highly recommended books,
Pushed to the front of the line,
Waiting to be read.

~ ~ ~

Late at night when uncertainties haunt my troubled soul
I walk past my many bookshelves,
Reading spines,
Titles and authors of books read and unread.
I am filled with characters, places and stories,
Filled with the lives of the writers,
Imbued with the infinite expanse of imagination,
And I succumb.

I pull an intriguing title from the shelf,
Slide into my most comfortable chair,
Turn on the lamp,
Wipe smudges off the lenses of my reading glasses,
Examine the art of jacket design,
The typography,
The illustrations, of some,
Feel the weight and surface texture of the paper,
Marvel at the physicality of the word made flesh,
Turn a few pages and begin.

I am filled with story,
Transported to locale,
Relocated in time,
Gifted with omniscience,
Enlarged by experiences and insights.

Here, in my tiny corner of the universe,
In these solitary hours after midnight,
Bathed in soft yellow lamplight,
My isolation has ended.
I have rejoined the human race,
Alone no more.

~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved