:: Article

There is no library for what i know of books

By Ryan Van Winkle.

There is No Library for What I Know of Books


The geography of a sandcastle
    is not the same as the geography
    of a wave. Some may think the wave
    has a grander geography.

This I cannot promise.
I cannot promise much

but today I can promise you
    I am thinking maps made of sand,
    certain a book is a kind of geography.
    Last week Dave sent me his.
    I took it on a trip to Italy.
    Italy is one of my geographies.

You could say I read Dave’s book
    with my Italian face and that face,
    like Dave’s, has its own geography.
    I only ever see Dave’s face by mail;
    his geography is that far from mine.

Our geographies once crossed in Syracuse
    where our adult maps were made
    and cooling lava shaped the land.
    And like that we have cooled.
    Now, we lie on sediment and silt.

Dave’s book had me in a Syracuse
when I lost it in the men’s room and then

it was gone and goodbye to all that
    and this missing became important to me.
    For the next few months it was an omen
    and if I stumbled and fell, if I cut my thumb
    I would think of Dave’s book and how
    it was a sandcastle collapsed in a wave.


After my wife leaves
    I think of the book, cawing like a magpie.
    She will not promise but I know

her geography is no longer mine
and I have a face she will only visit.

And I am sure the book
    has a new skin around it, the water of the book, the kiss
    of the book has new desires and it left as my Syracuse face
    has left and can only be found in mail and in the distance
    of all the waves, all the shores
    all the shores with no waves
    all the waves with no shores
    all the faces that have waved
    at my shore.

And the geographies only get bigger.
I promise, everyday the ocean is deeper.

The geography of ice caps melting and
the style of a sandcastle to stand.

And I know how a lost geography can return:
    the geography of a lost pendant, a lost wallet,
    a love, the geography of her neck. I cannot promise
    but this is not impossible except often you return
    to an old geography with a new face.


Maps on top of maps on top of maps
translucent and inaccurate but
a palimpsest nonetheless and all the time,
reading Dave’s book, I was in a Syracuse
where the ocean never arrived
and our faces never departed.


“How many times will you do this or that, / without being aware / of the time passing / or the time that still remains to you?” Aleksandar Ristovic

And it was only a corner
but I turned it with more worry
than normally I worry

as if that corner
was the year of my death
or a shadow of death

which I’ve dreamed
since I was a child
watching street lamps

dreaming of the day a car would forget
to stop or I’d forget to look. And this
was only a corner, one

of many on a round earth
and the shadows that pass
are only shadows of people

waiting for the lights, checking
their watches or scanning
for an acquaintance

as I dream of my acquaintance
turning up, as if by surprise,
an expected surprise, sure

as the lights twitch
back to green
after a long red.

Opinions, Not Facts

I kiss the chauffeur
holding the wrong name
away like bloody offal

I correct him with my mouth, I am so tired
of shadows and ink at airports and trains and all
the bus stations. I didn’t have to rush to Bulgaria

to be alone. I could have been alone with C.
or R. or anyone but H. If you had a full name
I could not be alone with you. G. would call
this abstraction and H. would never call
this a choice, she’d call these facts. I know facts:

    1. I see other people kiss
     see kisses while pedals are still
     spinning — how he rushed
     and the bike and the red bike fell.

    2. Tonight K. spoke hypothetical so well it could have been
     German. We had hypothetical gestalt. I blame the bar
     there was no electrics, only candles, the owner
     so afraid of a shock, so fearless of fire. And K.
     so serious about the squish and blast of us
     of course I had to

tell you how many hypotheticals I’ve ruined
or how many hotels and motels and inns
I’ve covered in dust. Hallways of frozen dust
up north, crocodile sheets down south, the tub
in Rome and all the nights in the motel of my own flat,
the odd alone of my mother’s home. Even a hotel
in Zadar, the only town I’ve been bashed by a Z,

kissed a woman with a wine-stained face, yet woke only
with purple on my ribs, purple everywhere, I was so
in love the whole city was purple, 3) mornings alone, left
side of her face faded and the hypothetical woman faded
and the purple faded and still there are those
who hurry off trains, who travel light so they can hurry
off planes, luggage in only one holding hand

       4) I take everything with me when I go.

Ryan Van Winkle is Poet in Residence at Edinburgh City Libraries following a successful run as the Scottish Poetry Library’s first-ever Reader in Residence. He remains the host of the SPL’s weekly poetry podcast as well as The Multi-Coloured Culture Laser Podcast (link). Ryan has been invited to read internationally at The Melbourne Writer’s Festival, Sofia Poetics, The Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. His first collection, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, was published by Salt in 2010 and won the Crashaw Prize. His poems have appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Poetry New Zealand and The Oxford Poets series. He is the host and curator of The Golden Hour a literary cabaret which has toured the world. In 2012 Ryan won the Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship. He was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2012.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, April 1st, 2013.