On the way to the restroom, there’s poetry.


At the Barnes and Noble bookstore in town, the poetry and literature section is on the shelf you walk by on the way to the restrooms. I am always waylaid by these books, particularly the poetry.

I hope Billy Collins, my favorite poet these past few years, doesn’t mind I only pick up his books on the way to the restroom. I am sure he could write a poem about it and explain to me, in two- to four-line stanzas, why I should not feel regret that such a duty is required to get me to consider the poets. Some people don’t consider them at all. Perhaps he could tell me how there are beautiful things all along the way to something less lovely, and on the way back out, in every life.

In fairness, I am often found reading poem after poem for half of an hour, making my companions think I should have not, perhaps, had the dessert after dinner.

But, as it is, the only thing that gives me
a sense of place is this upholstered chair
with its dark brown covers,
angled into a room near a corner window.
— Billy Collins, A Sense Of Place

I’ve hidden behind books most of my life, and so I find great consternation at how little I read anymore. Rarely do I turn a cold shoulder to my calendar and checkbook and curl up with a book on the sofa. I feel a bit lost, for books were my sense of place. Growing up, after college, I’ve toted my books around. Shelves of anchors that keep me from getting lost, remembering both the stories and how I felt when I read them.

Some people read in the restroom, but I forget to get there because I am distracted by the poems.

I am still able to be distracted, and I am relieved. It is a good sign that all is not lost, and I am still able to hear the books beckoning.