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2004-10-21 - 7:37 p.m.

Upon Meeting Benjamin Alire Saenz

The knot in my stomach swelled
into my throat;
swallowing it
I stopped tears from tumbling

as the volunteer spoke
to the man I was heading toward
“You are the end of the line.”


Then turning to me he said
“sorry, but we have to cut if off.
If we let anyone else in line
there won’t be time
for their books to be signed.

She has a media event.”

I had been trekking with a toddler in tow,
the newborn
latched to my nipples
now sore and swollen

feeling numb
not yet attached
yet this new life needs me.

My feet walked the city miles
in search of inspiration,
sustenance,
strength.

We three sat for the words tumbling from the children’s tent
from the celebrated author
where I pined for my older child
the serious thoughtful reader
who was not with me now,
she who ate that author’s words
over and over
as if they alone gave her life

the daughter whose loss I grieved like a death.

I was battered and bruised
by the recent banging of the car seat upon my thighs
carried through the airport
with the sleeping infant
to catch flights to and from Buffalo
for a battle over custody.

So I had ventured out
with the little ones I still held
and danced though feeling dead,
bounced with the characters of cartoons,
boarded a magical bus,
laughed at the large costumed crimson dog,
and the backward bears
of the beloved children’s stories.

The small children now quietly slept
spent and filled
and I had thought this was finally
my time.

I hoped to at least catch a glimpse of the fiction author
I just missed being able to meet.
Hoped to fill the void of disappointment
Reaching for something for myself.

Standing at the end of the line
I couldn’t enter.

I admitted
that despite being impressed by her publication
hundreds of times over
I was never really moved by her story
no matter how many ways it was retold.

It is always the same story
in Western New York winters
Frozen and dead
with depression
The place marred by lack of sun
That boasts of the highest national rates of
Suicide
Substance abuse
Teen pregnancy
A cold hard legacy of stagnation.
a reality I hoped to insulate my children from
by moving to the warmer Southern state.

I realized that my reading of her work
was a clinging to my past
most of which,
I really wanted forgotten
except for the children
that have now been left behind there.

It was the setting she wrote of that enthralled me
with the lure of its paradox.
The awakened nostalga for
glorious New York Summer and Autumn,
the fleeting moment of hope and warmth
the bright array of vibrant colors
brilliant and beautiful as the trees turn
in remarkable contrast
before the stillness of white winter sets it.

The chill of winters
that I still bear the scars from,
the frostbite and deadness of dulled nerves.

The deadness of Buffalo
that for decades has been dying a merciless death
with even the cold hard steel that once held it
Ripped away
Leaving slow erosion and tormenting, never ending pain
The pain which at times
Alone
Is what is left as the sole indicator of life.

And I thought to myself
“I’ve never even bought one of her books.”
That definitive test of personal worth of words

I was never so moved to buy one of the books
of this esteemed author.

I now notice a lone writer
sitting at an empty table.
The empty tent is an anomaly
among the many crowded ones filled with lines of hopefuls waiting for the autographs
of greater known authors.

I know immediately
he must be a poet.

I ask him to sign my children’s book
He graciously does so,
as I awkwardly ask
“Who are you?”


He tells me he is indeed a poet
named Benjamin
and adds he has also written children’s books
but today is here as a weaver of words.

I hand the poet my children’s book
of dancing gum drops the toddlers love to watch on TV ,
a show I have difficulty putting on (like most others)
because it seems so silly and valueless,
and most of all makes me feel selfish
in it’s use as an electronic babysitter.

The poet pens my dictation
emphasizing in all capitals
“DON’T FEEL GUILTY;WRITE!”

Now I walk toward the book sale tent
in nervous, excited anticipation
almost sure I will like the work of this discovered poet,
but afraid of the possibility I might not.

I see the work of the woman I this morning was excited to meet,
the book I earlier held
then placed back thinking
of the public library.

I stand now with a small paperback in hand
the poet’s collection
which I would never have found had I not been here now
in this place, at this time.
I feel goose bumps all over
as I open the pages.

I read words
upon these pages that are starting to wrinkle
with the droplets of water
spontaneously falling from my face
running the ink,
ruining the pristine beauty
of the once new book.

These poems speak
with beauty, insight in images,
nostalga and sadness,
regret and fear,
comfort in empathy and familiarity,
but most of all
of hope
as life springs forth from these pages.
This weaver of words moves me.

I am getting in line to buy this book that my tears have both
ruined and baptized
as it is not of value in the world anymore
I can’t re-sell it for much on an on- line auction
yet with it’s now marred pages,
this book which has enlivened me
is worth buying.

Copyright 2004 msafire MAB


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