Monday, September 3, 2018

2018 Summer Library Series: That Texas Library by Julia Drescher

Welcome to September and this week's edition of the 2018 Summer Library Series. Poet Julia Drescher shares reflections of her wry childhood in the library, and the thoughts one might have read from her mind had it been a book back then.


That Texas Library

Julia Drescher

Julia Drescher, Father, Sister
Where one is is in a temple that sometimes makes us forget that we are in it. Where we are is in a sentence.    – Jack Spicer, “Textbook of Poetry” #13

As a kid, I absolutely hated Texas in a generalizing way – the way everyone seemed to have (and be proud of) a get-mean-or-die kind of attitude, the weather (the oppressive humidity combined with the relentless way the sun shines feels like a perpetual punishment most of the year), and the landscape of the suburban town we eventually settled down in (every living thing seemingly cut down for concrete, wretched-looking brush residing in what was left of the natural areas). Places of seeming-refuge were somewhat hard to find.

The small public library in that town has two floors. The first floor contains the card catalog (now on computers), adult fiction & non-fiction collections, and, between this and a newspaper/magazine wall, a weird construction best described as a series of movable particle board curtains with various (mostly pastoral or portrait) paintings in the traditional style hanging from them. Though I never saw anyone do this, theoretically you could check one out like a book and hang it on your wall for two weeks.

The second floor contains the children/juvenile fiction & non-fiction collections, a small room that often held children’s music recitals, a huge dollhouse display, and a librarian who sits at a desk in the most advantageous location for monitoring who is on the floor.

After moving to Bryan, Texas when I was ten, I would often be dropped off at the library and left to roam the stacks (mostly unseen) for hours. When my mom came to pick me up, I would have quite a heavy load of books, reading my way through what of the collection interested me. 

At around the same time as being forced to attend a small private Catholic school, I began to almost exclusively check out any books having to do with magic and witches (led here, of course, by what I would now say are the correspondences between prepubescence, the growing imposition of traditional femininity, and the learning about saints' lives). 

My mom probably held her tongue for awhile, but seeing so many spines with ‘witch’ on them finally disturbed her enough to say something like, Why are you reading so many books about witches? 
(and I probably answered moodily, “I don’t know”– if I answered at all) You better be careful – you might get into trouble. If the former clearly reflected to me an uneasiness with my interest, the latter seemed to reflect some sort of fear for me – a vague paranoia that the librarians would report such dark interests to some government authority (or something).

Pretty early on (because the library is actually very small), I grew bored with the offerings of the second floor. But it took me awhile to confidently peruse the first – I would arrive at the library, go up the stairs to the second floor, pretend to look at the juvenile books in the most obvious way that I could, then try to sneak back down the stairs without any adults seeing me do so. These were maneuvers based on an assumption that categories were untrespassable – that any adult could see that I didn’t belong on this floor. I knew generally, too, that I should be seen and not heard (from), so my biggest fear was drawing attention to myself, causing a scene.

At some point, I got over it. At some point, I went from the interest in witches to a vague interest in various outlaws that had some Texas connection and checked out as many books as the adult section had on Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde etc.

When I came out to the car with these stacks of books, my mom glanced over and, as we drove out of the parking lot, said under her breath with a sigh of relief, Thank God that witch phase is over.


Julia Drescher,
photo used with permission

Today's library writer:

Julia Drescher lives in Colorado where she co-edits the press Further Other Book Works with the poet C.J. Martin. Her work has appeared most recently in ‘PiderEntropyLikestarlingsAspasiology, and Hotel. Her book of poems, Open Epic, is available from Delete Press. She works at a library.

Continue enjoying reflections from the Summer Library Series: