Barnes & Noble, 1999
I was a boy in a bookstore, “a bathhouse,” I’ll joke
when I am older. But then, I wasn’t. I was in a gallery
of things to be cracked open; all their spines & mine.
I tell you, I was a hungry pickpocket, plucking
what language I could from books & men who stood hard
before me. This is what it means to be astonishing;
to thieve speech and sense from the undeserving.
I tell you, I was a boy and they were men, so all
the words I know for this I made into small razors,
some tucked between my teeth, under my tongue,
and when they said what a good mouth I had,
I smiled, the silver glint of sharp things in me
singing, “I’ll outlive you. I’ll outlive all of you.”
Copyright © 2022 by Jesús I. Valles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.