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Page 59

As a child I was thrilled by books
that seemed to cheat the page out of
its flatness: Pictures of ducklings
coated with real felt, pop-up pages
with cut-out forms rising up off the page.

After much stroking, the felt went shiny
and flat and was never, anyway, the softness
I'd imagined. From much opening and shutting
of pages (to make the pop-ups pop up,
then vanish again) and fingering them
to test their realness, the cut-outs became
torn, creased, soiled – and they had never been
as full and solid as what I'd imagined.

Years later, I'd stare at the picture
(called a "frontispiece", odd word) at the front
of my Hardy Boys' books, trying to make
Frank and Joe come to life and be
my friends, but it was harder for the
illustration (though it had things right
and I tried to draw ears and hands as detailed) --
harder for it to become Frank and Joe
than for Frank and Joe to become my friends.

(Was I not already pudgy and fond
of making jokes, just like their best chum,
Chet? But where, oh where, is Bayport?)

We do best to work with the blankness,
not try to usurp it. The blankness leaves room
for the reader to contribute to my words
a life.

Note: All those years of looking at "frontispieces", I assumed the word "frontispiece" meant a piece at the front of a book. I was right about "front", but the last part comes from the Latin "specere",to look, view.

Since my Hardy Boys days(age 7 to around age 11), I've met some Franks and Joes, but never a "Chet" (Chet Morton, their best friend). The Hardy Boys lived in Bayport, but no state was ever specified.

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