Posts Tagged ‘books’

 You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.
            —from Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, (May 17, 1939-October 14, 2021) 

How many children went down in that plane, Gary?
How many children fell out of the sky alone
and learned they could live
for months in the woods
with only a hatchet for help?
How many kids learned
that tough conditions were a bidding
to bring their best self?
My daughter was nine or ten
when she first drew your book from the shelf
and found herself stranded in the northern woods.
Then she went there on purpose again and again.

Now, three years later, she wanders a forest of loss,
and in so many ways she’s alone.
Gary, you gave her a story to believe in
in which young people survive, find their way home.
Your story’s a sharp tool my daughter can wield
to make sparks in these darkened days.
I thank you for teaching her
how she might rise from a crash,
how in these woods of sorrow,
though I would build her a fire if I could,
she is the best thing she has.

*In case you are unfamiliar with Gary Paulsen, you can read more here. As he says, “Name the book that made the biggest impression on you. I bet you read it before you hit puberty.”

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At the Bookshelf

Today I touch the spines of the books
I have saved—run my hands over
shelves and shelves of poems
and stories and teachings and text books,
some I have never read, some
that have made a home in me.
I touch them as if to touch is to love,
as if the books themselves could feel
the enormous gratitude I have for the ways
their words have changed my life.
Touching them, I touch the days
I’ve spent curled up in couches and beds,
transported into other realms
of loss and belonging. I touch the longing
in me to be known, to be seen, to be heard,
to have a story worth telling, a story
worth living. I touch the fear that I am not enough,
and the hope that it is not too late
and the steadying pulse of the moment.
And the moment, generous as it is,
reaches out with its invisible hands
and touches me back, touches me here
as I stand by the shelves, touches
all the stories I tell myself, touches
the one who’s left as the stories fall away.

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Cardiac Library

In the library of my heart

are thousands of slim volumes.

There are no rules

against dog earring pages.

Writing in margins

is encouraged.

There are many comfy chairs,

sage and amethyst rugs,

and surprisingly tall ceilings

with ladders for reaching

the highest shelves.

Dust never collects here,

the cream candles never burn out,

though sometimes

a chapter or two is lost

and no one notices.

It smells of vanilla

and lavender and old paper.

It smells of autumns

and moonlight and loss.

Is it any wonder

I sometimes go days

without leaving here?

But sometimes,

though I have in my hand

the key to get in,

I just can’t find the door.

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Every Time



and after the lights were out

and after my mother had kissed me goodnight

I would pull from under my pillow


the book, the flashlight, and for hours

in the quiet house, no matter how difficult

the day had been, no matter how low I felt,


for those hours I was so glad to be alive

in someone else’s story, and every time,

when I when I tugged long enough on its lines,


I could not help but notice

how each story was my story, too.


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The words that will change us

remember, perhaps,

when they were first found

by the person willing

to serve them—


they carry in their serifs

a willingness to wait,

late nights of wrestling silence,

the wing of receiving, the joy

in sharing the gift.


When we read them, they enter us

like tiny notes in a score we never knew

we were part of until one day

there is music everywhere

and we are the ones being sung.

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reading the book again—

the dogeared pages the same,

the story in them, wholly changed


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One Revelation




turning the last page

of our lives, perhaps then

we finally get to read

the glossary to see

what all those symbols meant

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Next Chapter




Mom, she says, Stop crying.

She’s embarrassed for me.


I can’t stop. After three hours

of snuggling on the green couch,


we are nearing the end of our book,

where the silverback gorilla


and the baby elephant say goodbye

to the girl who has helped them


leave their cages. It is not

the farewell that makes me weep,


though that, too, but the way

that the girl and the gorilla


share a passion for art. It’s so good,

I say to my girl between sniffs,


it’s so rare and so good to find someone

who really understands you.


She looks at me as if she will never

comprehend how such a thing


could make someone cry.

My tears land on the end of the chapter,


leaving a wet trail I don’t

expect her to follow, not yet,


her small hand already

pushing on mine to turn the page.


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One Taboo




the book burning

turning the pages of char—

a blaze of orange butterflies

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