Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Postcard from another time

I leave things in books—letters from friends, notes I write to myself, “important” pieces of paper that I don’t want to get wrinkled in my backpack. Sometimes I mean to keep things in a book for awhile; sometimes I mean only for the storage to be temporary. I am a re-reader, enjoying the familiarity of books I have read before and the pleasure of discovering new things in stories that I know by heart, so I always find whatever I had left for myself. And I am usually careful to thumb through the pages of a book before I lend it to someone or trade it in at a used bookstore.

Last night it was still light out when I came home from work. It was one of the first spring-like days we’ve had. I had walked the two miles between the Metro and work, and spent an hour outside with coworkers at lunch, wanting to spend as much time in the fresh air as possible. I’m glad I did, since, in early March, such weather is unlikely to last—and today it is snowy and cold. But last night at six, it was still 60 degrees, with the clear blue sky deepening into lavender, so I fixed myself a small snack, picked up a book of e. e. cummings’ poetry from the shelf in my living room, and went out onto my front step to read.

The book opened to where a postcard was stuck between the pages. I turned it over, knowing what it was, but surprised to see it. It was from a young man I’d been completely infatuated with when I was about 19 or 20. I read over the card—the writing covered almost all of it, with space left only for the stamp and my address. The date of the postmark was illegible. I looked at the poem on that page. The same young man, on a different card, had copied down the first stanza of that poem.

Had I really not opened the book in six or seven years? I supposed that was possible, since it was Selected Poems, and most of the poems in it are in other books on my shelf. I don’t remember finding the card there before. I wondered if I had put the card in between those pages intentionally, taking the book off the shelf and finding the right place. Maybe I’d had the book with me when I picked up the card in the mail room, and after reading the card, had just tucked it inside, but that seems unlikely. Interesting that it was this card I had placed in the book and not the one with the lines of poetry on it.

But maybe the card had been some place else only a couple years ago—tucked into a journal or another book, perhaps. Maybe I had found it, wherever it was, and slipped it in between the pages of the book. I could have done just that when I was packing for my cross-country move, intending to put it with other cards and letters when I unpacked. I concentrated, trying to remember, but the memory wouldn’t come to me.

Without rereading the poem, I put the postcard back in the book, between those same pages, and turned to another section to read. The next poem I found seemed fitting for the warm day:

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me

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