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My Ideal Reader

Richard Cecil




According to this Royalties Report,

my book’s Returns outnumber Sales this year,

which means it’s making minus dollars now.

So, should I write my publisher a check?

Not unless my lifetime total sales

drop to less than zero, meaning that,

like Jesus’ loaves and fishes, leftover copies

returned for reimbursement by the book stores

exceeded their original press run.

I’ve taken part in miracles like that,

where everybody brings a casserole,

but after dinner so much macaroni

and bean dip’s left it can’t be carried home.

So after the last couples hug goodnight

and stumble down the porch steps to their vans,

the hostess empties Tupperware in trash bags

the host ties off and drags out to the curb—

enough to feed the multitude of men

who sleep in People’s Park and beg for change.

I doubt, though, that they’d relish carrot salad,

or cold, congealing corn and tofu chili.

There’s better food in Safeway’s alley dumpster—

past-dated donuts, pistachio ice cream—

and now and then, a Playboy magazine

shoplifted by a stock clerk, then tossed in

after lunch break. (To take it home is stealing).

Eighty cents buys a Big Foot jumbo coffee,

and the shady wall around the failed McDonalds

is the perfect height to perch on, eat, and read—

really read, not just flip through the pictures,

since the un-employed don’t need to rush their lunch.

I wonder—if I threw a shrink wrapped copy

of IN SEARCH OF THE GREAT DEAD in the dumpster,

would someone fish it out, peel off its plastic,

open it, and slowly turn its pages,

absorbing my iambic pentameter,

chuckling at my self-despising jokes?

Or would he mumble, shit, its poetry,

and toss it in a pile of rotten lettuce?

I’d like to think that someone with the leisure

to contemplate his life, and mine, would like

the kind of stuff I write. So Ed, or Bill,

or whatever your name is, this is for you—

my inspiration, alter ego, brother.





Richard Cecil is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which is TWENTY FIRST CENTURY BLUES. He teaches at Indiana University.



A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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