In my brief life, I have thought more about Lakshmi Holmstorm than I have about Ambai. More about the poem where Linda Gregg parts with Jack Gilbert than any other poem. There is a line Alice Oswald wrote describing a dragonfly that I carried with me for years till we outgrew each other. I have made many choices, being still is not second nature to me. A lot of these choices have been about books — who to read, who to pass, what to lend, what to borrow. I did not write my name in my first book, and the habit stuck like toffee in a molar. I lend books, a handful at a time
— who knows when I will see you next? You must read in the mean time.
The books in my grandmother’s house were wrapped in newspaper. This is how I read Mills and Boons under the radar. Every thing I believe about fidelity I learned from books. I judge books and authors more harshly than people. Which in my mind is fair, I know them better. I talk to myself more than anyone knows. Half my conversation and closure with others I have created myself. I have left you in a precise sphere of sunlight so many times, I don’t need to do it in real life any more. In a car, I speak to you with clarity that startles even me. We keep driving in silence. I know you can not live up to the worlds I think up, real and complicated though they might be. I live with this.
I know how to kneel, how to lose, how to stop reading a book if it is not good enough. When I walk away, I keep Marty McConnell in mind. When I sit on a porch, I see Mary Oliver drinking tea with a notebook in the morning light. When I think of belonging, I overhear Naomi Shibab Nye and Sharanya Manivannan speaking to one another about the body, about maps, about love. I could not bring myself to read for over a year. I did not think of Anne reconciling with Gilbert at a gate, of grandmother crawling under brambles to carve faces in the wood, of Anna Karenina dancing with her niece’s suitor. I looked to the world instead. I prefer to believe it was a mistake. I wrote you letters, quoted Sharmistha Mohanty’s thoughts on travelling. I asked you to take me to a book store in a city I had never been before. Would it have turned out different, if you had said yes.
*The title is from Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day.