Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Walk Through Edwardsville

I live and work in a crumbling neighborhood. I've written about it countless times (at least a few on this blog in poem form or essay, and dozens of other writings in my journal entries). It kind of ticks me off to find myself writing about it, yet again. Place is a topic that haunts me. Not in a capital P Poetry Workshop sort of way, either. I'm not happily haunted by Edwardsville. I'm living in it.

I have a duplicitous relationship with this town. We have a bookstore here. People praise us. "It's so nice what you're doing here." Ok, great. What are we doing here? No one comes in to buy books. Those who read and want to own a book in this area either shop online, or at Barnes and Noble. People say, "The energy in here is so great," or "This is such a special place." The free book box gets stolen, and we put out a fresh one, but start taking it inside after we close up shop for the evening. We're willing to give books away in the daytime, but not at night? Night isn't trustworthy? I put a five dollar bill into Salvation Army bucket, but won't give a cent to the man who comes into the store asking for money. This town screams need, but I'm only willing to give what I want to give and on my own terms. What does that say about me as a person?

Today I took a walk thinking about my tangly feelings for this area. We want to move and we also have fierce pride in owning the bookstore here in the middle of a place where no one seems to care about words. Maybe we feel safer that way. Maybe it's time to move. Why have fierce pride over anything, really? It's probably unhealthy. There's something too precious about it all.

I walked into the laundromat I've never been inside. I've only ever seen it from the outside. I complain all the time about people just walking past our bookstore, and I've never been in my town laundromat. The tiles on the floor are lifting up and crunch underfoot, the air is humid with the lint of the dryers. The machines are "Compu-Dry II" models. I'm sure they shrink your clothes in binary code. No one was in there with me, but someone was earlier. They left a plaid blanket in one of the baskets. There are twenty vents on the side of the building, all pointing down at the ground.

In one of the houses on a one-way street behind our store, a parrot stares out the window. The owner of the double-wide keeps a collection of rain decayed religious statues in the little space of land between the front porch and the sidewalk. Jesus has no hands. St. Francis is riddled with pockmarks. A plastic sign is jammed into the dirt, "Please curb your dog."

There's a beautiful yellow labrador that rests at the front door of Empire Arcade and Amusements. He watches the traffic of Main Street.

The parrot, the dog, the bookstore owners.


Jodi Anderson said...

I enjoyed this walk. I found myself contemplating it all with you. I think that some people (me) get too caught up in holding onto things, ideas, places. I've come to realize that life isn't about "holding onto" and just typing it brings tears to my eyes.

[a brief pause with wet face in hands]

I used to watch people keep things going until they couldn't any longer, and I thought them so brave. Now, I see people give away treasure or part with the brunt of their belongings or move across the world, and I think them so brave.

I think that you're brave, and I think that regardless of what you do, it'll be the right decision for you.

Indigo Bunting said...

This is lovely (and great to read after having viewed photos). I feel your frustration. (I live in a very funky, still-depressed village.) Of course, inquiring minds want to know more: move nearby? move far away? move to a city? to the country? (Answers all in good time, if necessary, no doubt.) I'm sad to think your bookstore could disappear before I wander through that area, but that could be years...

Sara Shalom said...

I was inside your store for the first time 2 or 3 days ago. Since then, I've worked on writing down my 500 favorite words and have started to collect books to bring to you. I don't have a lot of money, but I have been hoping to become a small part of what you're doing. We... I... need places like yours, because they give me hope, which I so desperately need when I observe the blind, selfish, isolating, dehuminizing, corporation-driven, electronic-media-saturated, advertisement-glutted I'm trying to raise my children in. I want them, and myself, and those around me, to know that there are still places where truth is spoken, creativity is honored, and true, organic communities of real live people exist.

I was just thinking about how, when societies begin to allow human atrocities to happen- when we lose sight of the dignity of all forms of life- art and poetry are supressed in one way or another. Banned, removed from school programs, or even just deemed irrelevant. I was wondering why that is. I realized that it's because poetry and art speak truth so plainly and vividly. And corruption cannot stand such a bright light.

Who would we be if the truth-tellers all went away, or only existed in certain pockets of society? I don't ever want to know.

For my two cents, I hope you stay. :)