Fall 2009 / Issues / Poetry 2009 / Volume 40

At the Strand — John Azrak

A small crowd was gathered at the entrance

of the Strand the night I went to sell my books.

Word circulated that the store was closed

so that Michael Jackson could shop alone

for children’s books adding to the buzz.

It began to drizzle but people stayed on their toes

to peer over the window displays to get a glimpse

of the King of Pop. How cool, I thought, to have

the place to yourself, to wander the eighteen miles

of books, a bibliophiles’s dream of neverland.

He didn’t even have to wait in line, I laughed.

But then I pictured Michael heading straight

for the children’s section, back then buried in the corner

of the musky basement (I’d taken my daughter),

focused intently within the cubbyhole of shelves,

so enchanted by the eclectic selection of titles and

vibrant covers the rest of the store would fall so

completely away that it would never occur to him

to cover his tracks. I imagined the Page Six story

in the Post the next morning (it was) which was about

the last thing he needed. I wondered if he cared or

if some part of him even wanted this exposure.

I put down my grocery bag of hard covers, the bottom

starting to tear open. I decided that I would leave them

there on the pavement, the pittance I would receive

in exchange hardly worth a return trip, somebody bound

to pick them up, maybe even leaf through a couple,

current fiction from the eighth of a mile on my walls,

besides these were gifts inscribed by an old friend

whose love had turned into something more

which I no longer could keep in the open.

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