This poem is taken from Stand 231, 19(3) September - December 2021.

J. Alan Nelson The Book Cobbler
Steve Marly’s novels contained occasional, brute violence. His friends viewed him as a mild, skittish man. Most days, he tried make stories out of words.

While Steve wasn’t famous, he was well respected. Some novels had been published. Although not best sellers, the books sold well. He’d made the short list twice on prestigious literary awards. He knew he was fortunate.

In his study, he’d stenciled an inscription on the wall against his desk: Of making many books there is no end. He even had been on Bookworm podcast. He privately listened every day to that podcast, now five years past. When Michael Silverblatt gushed how Steve’s words and sentences glistened like shiny fairies that lept from a fountain, Steve felt as he soared, light, airy, complete.

Yet like many people, a dread haunted Steve. Sometimes the dread tickled the back of his throat. Sometimes it settled in his stomach. Steve’s particular trepidation was that he might miss an opportunity of great consequence. That he’d would die unsatisfied, unready for the nunc dimittis. That like Henry James’ beast in the jungle, he’d be devoured by time because of a failure to recognize a certain truth about himself.

The date was set up by his friends Chris and Barb. They heard Diana was into books even more than he. A Book Cobbler, they had said. Some sort of book binding or publishing they said. A promising hunch. He immediately said yes. Fewer and fewer people were book people now. Whenever Steve heard someone speak of a classic, he’d found they were referring to an episode of Game of Thrones or Seinfeld or some other series they’d binge-watched on a streaming service.
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