catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 3 :: 2011.02.11 — 2011.02.24


An ode to the bookmark

I have a strange way of documenting time. A habit of collecting memories to come back to. I don’t scrapbook. I leave stuff in books.

I love books. If my car had a bumper sticker it might say “I’d Rather Be Reading.” But I am often a fickle lover. My proof is the many bookmarks strewn throughout the pages of the volumes that line my shelves. A bright yellow torn page with a wonder-filled illustration by the artist Madeleine Gekiere from Ray Bradbury’s children’s book Switch on the Night peeks out of my copy of The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore on page 178:

I May, I Might, I Must

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.

The bookmarks were not chosen because they went with the books. They were what I had at hand, a quick search for of a flat object on the way to answer the phone or pull up the sheets and turn off the light. A sometimes fuzzy Polaroid of a distant time, a better time, a time when I was reading. How often life interrupts a book’s passionate embrace. How often another glossy cover beckons for my attentions. Too little time. So many library fines.    

As much as the stories themselves in which they temporarily reside, my bookmarks make me laugh. They make me cry. A New York Rangers ticket stub stuck in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. A lilting earth-toned water color in an Annie Dillard collection. A holographic poison dart frog illustration staring out from inside Thomas Merton’s The Tears of the Blind Lions. A bookstore receipt dated with the same year I went to see Chaim Potok speak, tucked inside My Name is Asher Lev. A cheeky birthday card from a distant friend in a colorful volume about Canadian artist Joyce Wieland. And inside Margaret Atwood’s Payback, a poem written by my grandmother, printed on the back of a card with pastel paint strokes of a solitary stone path, leading to an open iron gate — the card given at her funeral.

If anything these bookmarks remind me of Intention. And about how much of our lives are measured by daily longings. By what is done and what is left undone. How the pages of a good book cannot contain the ideas within. How much is spoken and how much goes unsaid. The bare excitement of the first twenty pages. Those words that linger long after a book has been put down.

My bookmarks remind me that my life is also a story in progress. And there is a hope that I am still somewhere in the midst of these fine and funny and curious minds, that our thoughts are mingled if only for a brief while. A hope that I will be back to listen and chat again sometime real soon. It is a promise to lead a reading life, however inconvenient. It is a promise always to return.

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