Marginalia, it even sounds pretty, I will marginalia Marginalia har har har!
Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
[Love this image]
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” -
[Do this all the time!]
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
[Ninny = dumbass, nowadays? hehe]
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
[Hamlet in McNalley’s]
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
[Lit term flashback]
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
[I should check this out…]
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
[Been a while since I’ve done this, oh Gatsby]
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.
[I could just imagine]
And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
[Man v Wild, Man Woman Wild]
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
[Gov every time]
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
[Makes me feel accomplished]
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil- [Such good detail!]***
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
[who writes that? eh I’m just jealous I never felt like that]