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Bookmarks & Nothingness

by Brooke Horvath

I’m feeling much more than restless tonight,
thinking perhaps I should just get tight…
I might say it’s ennui I’m feeling, only
that seems too French, pretentious, phony,
so let’s just say I’ve got the blues,
a slough as familiar as ‘nothing to lose’.
Like John Berryman, I’m ‘heavy bored’,
all ‘inner resources’ peeled & cored.
I glance at the books upon my shelves,
their supercilious, self-satisfied selves,
their polished prose, apt turns of phrase,
their striking thoughts & knowing gaze:
I don’t care for any of them right now,
learned or streetwise or middlebrow,
& certainly not these light classics by Sartre,
That petit philosophe with a talent for art.
Oh, I understand what Jean-Paul meant
about being ‘abandonné dans le présent’,
though I’d sooner say ‘forsaken by the past’
where everything that is, resides at last.
So, like Roquentin, I’ll worry mislaid
memories – forlorn, derelict & frayed
bookmark souvenirs, flattened gauges
of what formerly was, tucked between pages
of once-read books, residua from which
I might conjure times when my soul didn’t itch:
a flier on how to save small brown bats,
a Jamaican postcard, old softball stats,
an illegible, quickly scribbled note,
a few touching letters gone friends wrote,
French stamps & railway boarding passes,
assignments from forgotten classes,
phone numbers, gift tags & ticket stubs,
silver gum foils, a jack of clubs,
the snapshot flashbulb reddened eyes
of a girl I once tried on for size,
here & there a pale pressed flower,
& to save my soul, an old Watchtower.
It’s nonexistence by which we’re kissed,
said Sartre, for the past does not exist:
it’s ‘an honorary event’ intended to keep
nothingness at bay, it’s the heart’s trash heap.
Tokens of diddly may not be worth the cost;
still, I’m cheered to revisit the nothing I’ve lost.

© Brooke Horvath 2024

Brooke Horvath’s most recent book is At Times: New and Selected Poems (Seven Stories Press).

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