Sunday, April 30, 2017

On Meeting Morrison

The effort we put into getting lecture tickets
was unbelievable. Had I put that much effort and
dedication into any other aspect of my life, I’d be rich and famous
or even published.

A hurricane prevented us from meeting another author,
but that’s fine. “It’s not like she’s Toni Morrison.”
There was another acclaimed writer. My nervous chatter evoked a smile
of amusement and gratitude in her. I could handle that. 
What could I say to Toni Morrison?

Driving to meet Morrison, I thought of what she meant to me.
The supreme storyteller. Woman of strength and intellect.
Words poised themselves at her pen to form
knives that dive into your soul,
knives that make your scars bleed.
They stole my milk.
The maternal instinct to kill a child to save her.
The simple beauty you see when you open
your eyes to the ugliness.

To write like her, we cannot do it. Few mortals possess this skill.
We struggle to find
a place in our lives to write.
We who dream of one acceptance letter from a publisher cannot
dream of a Nobel.

Kripa and I cut the end of the lecture
to secure a place in line. Stood in the long library hallway,
high ceilings echoed footsteps on stone and amplified hushed tones, 
drowning out any sounds of the lecture. We calculated the distance from the table, the number
of bodies and the books they held. We would make it.
We rehearsed what we would say: “We love your work.”
Kripa wanted a signature on a card for a special patient who“loves your work.”

We watched the faces of those who returned with signed copies
or a mere glimpse of her majestic Author.
They beamed, they glowed. They had seen the blessed Writer.
We longed to be there and feel her Power.
We hoped she would endow us with her secrets,
accept our words, our gratitude.
We hoped we would gain a bit of the fairy dust that dances in her aura, that
would make us write as she does.

Yet, we were only nameless faces in line. Bodies with back packs and
winter coats, scarves swaddling our throats as we clutched dog-eared copies
of Beloved or glossy new ones from the table outside.
We approached the table only to perform a silent
exchange of a book for a signature.
She glanced at me with curiosity
as I requested a handshake. She complied softly.
As Kripa stepped ahead, the lights of a cameraman
forced the Author to look away.
Their eyes barely met.

In moments we were walking away. Our books suddenly seemed
empty and Kripa’s card was blank. We made our way through the crowd,
a queue of anticipation and excitement, meandering through the Hall. 
 Should we tell them?

As we left the library with coffee in styrofoam cups, 
we pulled hoods over our heads, 
careful not to let the rain fall on our books or coffee. 

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