To Barbara, with love. | D.S. Maolalaí

I like buying books
more than reading them.
once a week – sometimes
2 or 3 times—
I’ll end up
in some store somewhere,
leafing through pages
like a lazy amateur
improvising on the keys of a piano.
if a novel has a good first line
or a couple of poems do,
as well (of course) as staying lower case,
I’ll take them—
what the hell? I like
books about musicians too;
about their lives
and their friendships
and how they died tragically,
and histories of cities
if they are done
in good prose.
Algren’s Chicago
did all 4 at once.
I practically tapdanced.

and best again
are second hand bookshops,
where you get stuff
with handwritten epigraphs
scratched in faded
blue ink from ’95:

“To Barbara,
with love
 — your Tom.”

sad to see them, sure,
but not so sad. I read it at home
propped up on my pillows,
getting something Barbara
probably never got.
and anyway, such grand presumption;
to dare to buy a book
for someone else.

I buy 3 or 4 books a week
for me only,
and read 1
if I’m lucky.
I flick through them,
wandering my room
like a caged animal,
like a nervous dealer
playing a new pack of cards.
the trick with books
is to read enough to get an idea
and then put the book down
and have the idea by yourself.

sit leaning
in a chair
and blow out candles all night.

poor Tom. poor Barbara.

I wonder how long things had been worked out
when she decided she’d had it
and she didn’t want
Chicago anymore.


D.S. Maolalaí has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)