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Behind the Grindstone: The Book Store

By Bill Bunting

October 25, 2023

I walked into a bookstore
On the crusty side of town
Wanting nothing in particular
Just thought I’d look aroun’

It smelled of dust and mildew
And books that have some age
The kind that seem most brittle
If you try to turn a page

The lights were dim and yellow
Kinda left a spooky haze
Yet something drew me to it
Like walking in a daze

An old man stepped from the dimness
With a week old stubble of beard
Muttering something about me to himself
I thought “This is mighty weird”

He said, “I’ve been waitin’ sixty years
For you to come walkin’ in”
And he raised a bony hand
To rub his scraggly chin

He said, “So you’re a poet”
And I wondered how he knew
I said, “I’ve been known make a rhyme
And write a line or two”

This was getting’ mighty strange
And as I turned to leave
The old man reached across the counter
And caught me by the sleeve

“So you think you can write”
He said with a crooked grin
“After all these years of waitin’
I’ve wondered where you’ve been”

He reached there behind him
Pulled a book off the shelf
As he lay it open on the counter
It looked as old as time itself

A book of empty yellowed pages
Except for only one
A single verse upon the page
The rest were left undone

Written with quill and ink
Four simple lines that rhyme
And I wondered at the writer
And wondered at the time

He handed me a pencil
As I felt a sense of dread
In a voice as flat and hard as iron
“Finish it” he said

The poem started flowin’
Like a rushing mountain stream
And I’m wondering as I’m writing
Am I livin’ in a dream

“You forgot to name it
Be careful now,” he said
So I wrote the title above it
A title he never read

I slid the book back to him
But he never read a line
He just quickly closed the cover
Then he said the book was mine

And the title on the cover
Caused a shiver up my spine
It was the same title as the poem
And the authors name was mine

At least, that’s the view here from behind the grindstone.