Evening with long books

February 6, 2014

                                  Each man is a half-open door
                                  leading to a room for everyone.
                                                 —Tomas Tranströmer

My friends say Tolstoy really got into the heads of his female characters.
They give him credit. They talk dreamily of the books they love,
books so long only two will make a whole course. This seems to me
like making twelve gallons of chili and eating nothing else till it’s gone,
but I smile and listen. My friends are smarter than me and more patient,
surely. I’m the only guy in the house tonight so I get my own room
with a good foam mattress, a bad desk, windows that open on other rooms.
I make up the bed and lie down with Tranströmer’s poems, ten or twenty
lines on a page, fewer words in fifty years than Tolstoy or George Eliot
put down in a decent work week. Every man is a half-open door.

The door to my room is cracked open, lights blaze outside. My friends
are all upstairs. If I don’t shut the light off, no one will. The wind
will settle toward morning, the waves begin again to spell their single
complicated word. Waiting for the ferry we watched a hawk
try to lift a four-foot snake from the shallows, drop it, circle, swoop
and grab again and lose its grip and veer away. Oh, how sweet would
that meat have been, how grand a feast, how we would have cracked
and sucked the bones, how long we could have made that story last.