Paul Hostovsky

 

 

 

 

Woman With Chrysanthemums

                                                                                       (Degas)

 

He had the most amazing bookshelves
in his dorm room, which was next to my

dorm room, and the same size, maybe

fifteen by fifteen, a cell really, with three

walls and a bay window full of trees. But

covering all three walls from floor to ceiling

were these bookshelves he’d had built, or built

himself, out of wood, unfinished pine, lots of

intricate knots in the grain, paisleys and flowering

arabesques, and on these bookshelves no less

than a thousand books of poetry—a minimum

of prose sprinkled in-their vertical spines

filling the room with all the colors of autumn

and taking up all the wall space, and taking up

all the oxygen too, pushing and straining and

slanting to the left and right, seeming to grow

into and out of each other, crowding everything

out. It was just too much. And of course there wasn’t

room for any pictures in the room—the books and him

sitting next to the books in his expensive suit, lifting

an invisible cigarette up to his mouth, was the only

picture in the room. The interesting thing though,

the thing I remember most about this picture

besides the extravagance, the absurdity really,

of so much poetry in such a small space—the odd thing

was the impression I had, and still have, that it wasn’t

his, that it didn’t belong to him and he hadn’t

read any of it, as though he were posing, as though he

just happened to have sat down in the chair

next to all that poetry overflowing its container

and getting its dust on his arm, his shoulder, his hair,

like he was in the way, sitting there looking away from

that enormous bouquet like it wasn’t even there.