Third Floor Bookstore by Herb Kauderer

Third Floor Bookstore
Herb Kauderer

I stood in the warm colored neon
watching dusk turn black,

waiting for the Dreamer’s Mall to open
is lying beneath endless layers of blankets
waiting in the early morning
for the winter sun to rise.

When at last the doors unlocked
I rushed to the third floor bookstore
knowing what I’d find.

Joseph Conrad sat behind
a mahogany table, signing copies
of his newest collection.

He spoke with us as to old friends and told
stories of what he & Faulkner had done
sharing a room at a convention once.
Their shenanigans involved a wooden horse
two firearms, and a woman’s dress,
which amused, though I’m not sure
I understood all their deep writerly symbolism.

When all the copies were sold & signed
he led us in flight
a raucous flock of South Sea birds
gone to roost in a brew pub I had never seen
before.

We drank shandys and port and talked of
technology encroaching on the place of man
and humanity merging with technology.
Each round of drinks brought a new theme.

“If you weren’t locked into one time period,”
I asked after the third round
“What would you write today?
Stories of man, alone in his universe?”

“No,” he said “I’d write stories of woman
with no place of her own.”
And we talked of women then
realizing that those gathered were only men
bonding against that which impersonalizes.

We had left to women to look
for their own place while we huddled
averting our eyes from the long cold
journey of tomorrow.

We got the piano player to part with a jig
and a ballad while we filled the melodies’
spaces with talk of yesterday’s news.
We had already exhausted tomorrow
or it had exhausted us.

“If you wrote today,” I asked “would you
still write endless sentences
and pages long paragraph?”

“Of course,” he replied in his mongrel accent
“What good is having the richest language
in the world if you cannot spend more than
ten words at a time?”

I drank my port and smiled
some things, I thought
never change.

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