If I’m trying to look cool I’ll say this is my bookshelf:
And it’s true. When I bought the house in 2010, one of the first things we did was install these shelves. Note how I can never change the size of my television. Which is probably okay since we never turn it on. It’ll last forever I think. Note too that these are in perfect order, there is a fiction section, a poetry section, and a reference section. Most of these books haven’t been touched in at least six years—since I started school. Most of these books don’t even belong to me. They were inherited from my mother or belong to my now-adult-once-teen daughters.
But if I’m being honest about the current state of MY books I’ll show you these instead:
And I’ll add that there are at least twenty more stacks of books that look exactly like this, on my desk, on my nightstand, on the floor near both of these, and anywhere I regularly try to stake out space in a house full of people. Because right now I’m always bouncing back and forth between home and school, my actual books, the ones I use, read, reference, and sleep with, aren’t on that wall at all. (See also: lesesucht.)
I’m currently in a constant state of flux between Washington state and Arizona, so I’m always carrying whole boxes of books back and forth. I carry more books back and forth than I do items of clothing. And because I’m only in each place for a few months at a time before I have to return to the other, I don’t really bother to unpack them exactly. I more distribute, stack, and scatter strategically. Moreover, when I’m in one place I will inevitably, never mind how many books I brought, need one that is in the other location and will pay shipping to have one of my kids send me the book or will buy another copy. Thus I now have two copies of many books, too, but I can never remember in which state. . . So the truth of my bookshelf presently is that it’s more box than shelf, more floorstack than display, more misplaced panic—than leisure. But I’ll probably pretend I have no idea what you’re talking about if you mention this to me in public.
Cheyenne L. Black serves as the editor-in-chief for Hayden’s Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is a third-year MFA candidate and Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children where she brutally and with much zeal strikes the ‘s’ from directionals like toward, afterward, and backward.