They Are On My Side, or Books For My Summer

1 Jun

I am not a superstitious person.  I say that knowing that no one is entirely reasonable, that like anyone sometimes I think about objects as though just by having them around they can keep me safe, that they are on my side.

Last Saturday I drove 13-ish hours to live in North Carolina by the beach for two months.  The couple weeks beforehand were a slow emptying of closets and furniture, edging up to leaving.  I am so thrilled to be to living in this beautiful place with beautiful people for the summer, but I’d dreaded saying goodbyes – guh, see-you-laters – so much that I didn’t look at the fact of departure directly, not until I took my leave.  Even this one that’s only a couple of months. I left to live by the beach for a summer a few years ago, but then I didn’t dread going at all; there weren’t as many people it hurt to leave.

When I first thought about what books I would take, these I immediately knew I wanted to pack were ones I’ve already read, all multiple times.  If I’m honest about how I think of them, they are little guardians, voices of conscience, talismans warding against forgetting who I am/want to be and how important books have been to that personal trajectory.  When so much else gets uprooted their steadiness moors me to some wispy feeling of safety.  If there can be such a thing as holy books for an individual life then these I knew I would come with me are part of an ever-expanding gospel:

Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless by Matt Hart:  The music of Matt’s poems is totally wild but still steady, intentional, an ocean always coming back to where you can walk up to meet it.  Leaving this behind would’ve been like not having favorite albums to sing me the way here.

If I Falter at the Gallows by Edward Mullany:  Reading these poems feels like hearing prophecies of a strange god you know will be fulfilled.   Mullany breathes a quiet but swelling kind of truth, thunder or bells tolling to more bells.

Come On All You Ghosts by Matthew Zapruder:  I’ve never read a book of poems and experienced as much gentleness and mercy and glimmer as from this marvelous thing.  It was given to me by someone who says I’ve called from them their ghosts.  I don’t know if that’s a thing I can do, but these poems help me remember how to inhabit haunted and fearful places with light.  They reassure me that a trembling heart is better than none at all.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman:  This is not the sort of book usually written about on here but yeah, okay, whatever.  I first read this just over ten years ago and my attachment to it still grows.  When I became an atheist after ten years of devout faith it took on special significance, this story of a ragged twelve-year-old girl pitted against a cruel, powerful god and his army of angels.

Several months ago I took the copy I first read from the public library in my hometown. I took it from the shelf in the young adult section I virtually lived in through adolescence and walked out.  There are some things that never leave you, and I had to go back for this one.

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