Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Playing chess with bottle caps

The other day, I wandered into Blue Whale Books, on the downtown mall in Charlottesville. Blue Whale is a used bookstore, one of many in Charlottesville. Someone told me there are more bookstores per capita than anywhere in the United States, and I believe it.

This store is exceedingly well organized. I went to the poetry shelf where I found a lovingly worn, slightly yellowing, paperback copy of The Back Country, by Gary Snyder, published in 1968 -- and only for two bucks. How could I pass up this treasure?

The poetry inside is what you'd expect of Gary Snyder circa 1968, lots of anatomically graphic imagery, cuss words, and wonderful word portraits of his travels in Japan and in the Sierra. Here's one that grabbed me:
By Gary Synder
The glimpse of a once loved face
gone on a train.
Lost in a new town, no one knows the name.
lone man sitting in the park
Chanced on by a friend
of thirty years before,
what do they say.
Play chess with bottle caps.
"for sale" sign standing in the field:
dearest, dearest,
Soot on the sill,
a garden full of weeds

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