methow grist 2011-2014 archive


The Erotic Life of Books

Did you know that inside a computer
there is no such thing as touch?
There are endless numbers and codes;
the “yes” “no”s of almost everything
we can possibly imagine,
but no real rubbing together.

Books in the library though,
touch one another
They lean there in orderly
yet lovely, uneven rows
with well-thumbed covers
snuggled tight.
Take one out too fast and you can hear
a sighing.

You can smell their breath
back in the stacks,
those old books, musty and unread
waiting next to the glossy bestsellers.
They smell like leather
and dust, those old ones,
and when you open one
you can hear a soft moan,
“Thank you,” they say.

No wonder we learn to flirt in the library.
Walking with a fingertip down their spines:
Herodotus and Heaney and Hirshfield and Hogan,
the bodies of their work right here
under the skin.

We go to the back
past row after row of books,
a hundred million actual words
there, between sheets
bound in leather, and linen
and old thick cardboard worn to velvet.
We slip a note to the stranger,
reading in the last carrel
right up to closing time.
“I am really here,” the note says,
“I have proof.”

John Straley first came to the Methow in 1963 for a family pack trip with Jack Wilson and three years later went to work for him. When Wilson sold out to Claude Miller, John was thrown into the deal and he packed for Claude through 1975. After a summer working for the Courtney family in Stehekin, he then moved to Sitka, Alaska where his horse career ended and his writing career began.

John has seven published novels along with the book of poetry this poem came from, titled ‘The Rising and the Rain’ from the University of Alaska Press.


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