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  • travisstephens38

Too Old, Too late

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Once I had an image in my mind, that of a card catalog and it was located in a quiet, orderly library somewhere far away. It was magical and held the secrets of the heart, the puzzles of history and more. It turned into a poem. Great! Except it dealt with a card catalog as a central idea and character.

Have you been to a library lately? A card catalog is a fossil, akin to a horse and buggy. It means this is a poem for us codgers only:


The Library of Secrets doesn’t have a sign out front

nor will GOOGLE find it. Someone must tell you.

I can attest it rests in the shadow of

a new building, one with commercial space below

and bright, airy apartments above. Doormen glance

toward its automated doors with envy and malice.

Ask the librarian for guidance. You have seen her before

ducking into a doorway, a shape at the edge of your sight.

Black cardigan over a simple blouse of silk,

the texture that is a whisper half heard. She drinks tea

without milk. Biscuits of the type you like best;

her desk offers spearmint candies as your grandmother used to have.

These are not made anymore.

Between stacks of books are the low cabinets of cards.

Oak, I believe, with brass handles and number tags.

On top a pale globe of the third moon of Jupiter.

In the card catalog to the library of secrets

the entries are not alphabetized

nor do they correspond

to more than the whisper of clue,

maps in invisible ink. This might be the last

card catalog in existence.

One drawer of the card catalog is dedicated to military spies.

The entries are in a rusty brown that might have been the blood of

enemies or Allies. So much the same. Do not write anything down.

This card, every card, is bound for the basement stacks, eventually.

I tried to go there; the elevator is out of order, the stairway locked. To

rap on the door is to hear an echo in the basement of lonely.

Most cards are reserved for love, written in salt and woe.

There are blank cards in the back if the card catalog.

It’s not too late, love, I reach for a pen.

I'd like to show it to you but then

it would cease to be a secret &

vanish into the vacuum tube of memory.

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