The Location of Things
The Open Skies
Purchased at Rust Belt Books in its former location at the corner of Lexington and Norwood. Graham Foust was working that day. He said we've got this nice first edition hardcover of Barbara Guest -- you want it? I said sure. While he rung it up he said, I don't like Barbara Guest, and I recall we had some kind of conversation about why he didn't care for Barbara Guest, the content of which I don't recall. (Thinking back, I may be confusing this with a similar exchange involving a first edition of Marianne Moore -- or maybe we had the exchange more than once. Can't be sure.)
Rust Belt Books moved into Allentown a year or so later, into a much large location. It's hard to believe, given how much space they now occupy and how many books they carry in that space, that they were ever in such a small space as the one that housed the original store. My main memory is of its being a bit cramped. I used to stop in now and again to see Graham or Taylor Brady, both of whom worked there at the time.
I didn't know Brian Lampkin, the owner, too well at first, but I got to know him after a time. One afternoon, Brian called me and asked if I could meet over at the store at 9 AM on a Saturday for a photo. He'd invited a photographer to take a picture of a bunch of Buffalo poets in front of the store, one reminiscent of a photo taken of the Beats in front of City Lights back in the day. I think about fifteen people showed up.
This is the photo here:
I don't know everyone in the photo, but here's the partial list from left to right: Natasha (last name?), Aaron Skomra, ?, Michelle Citrin, Kazim Ali, ?, Celia White, Graham Foust, Brian Lampkin, Ben Frieldander, ? , Mike Basinski, ?, Me (shaved head, sunglasses, don't ask), David Landrey
I remember the photo shoot took all of ten minutes and that we then went our separate ways. I have a copy of the photo on the wall of my office. There's a large, blown-up version hanging on the wall of Rust Belt Books as you walk in the door. I think all but about five people in the photo have left Buffalo since then, including Brian (sigh).
The Location of Things
Why from this window am I watching leaves?
Why do halls and steps seem narrower?
Why at this desk am I listening for the sound of the fall
of color, the pitch of the wooden floor
and feet going faster?
Am I to understand change, whether remarkable
or hidden, am I to find a lake under the table
or a mountain beside my chair
and will I know the minute water produces lilies
or a family of mountaineers scales the peak?
On Madison Avenue I am having a drink, someone
with dark hair balances a carton on his shoulders
and a painter enters the bar. It reminds me
of pictures in restaurants, the exchange of hunger
for thirst, art for decoration and in a hospital
love for pain suffered beside the glistening rhododendron
under the crucifix. The street, the street bears light
and shade at its shoulders, walks without crying,
turns itself into another and continues, even
cantilevers this barroom atmosphere into a forest
and sheds its leaves on my table
carelessly as if it wanted to travel somewhere else
and would like to get rid of its luggage
which has become in this exquisite pointed rain
a bunch of umbrellas. An exchange!
That head against the window
how many times one has seen it. Afternoons
of smoke and wet nostrils,
the perilous make-up on her face and on his
numerous corteges. The water's lace creates funerals
it makes us see someone we love in an acre of grass.
The regard of dramatic afternoons
through this floodlit window
or from a pontoon on this theatrical lake,
you demand your clown's paint and I hand you
from my prompter's arms this shako,
wandering as I am into clouds of air
rushing into darkness as corridors
who do not fear the melancholy of the stair.