Spring, 2022 / No. 48

“In the early universe it was light that formed

the dominant constituent, and ordinary matter played

only the role of a negligible contamination.”

—From poem II of Elizabeth Arnold’s “Effacement,” paraphrasing Steven

Weinberg’s book about the beginnings of the universe, The First Three

Minutes, from The Paris Review No. 190, Fall, 2009.

Unearthed in the act of uncollecting.

This month’s lockdown pastime: 

reading from every book and magazine in the house

—not just props today!—

dusting every CD and LP for its memories. 

Clearing a space in the house (and the head)

for the home office.

The journey of things.

That Paris Review is from the rack at This Ain’t the Rosedale Library . . .

Some of the records arrived in bags from Sam’s

or Sunrise on a twinkling Boxing Day twilight . . . 

And loved—each one!—(or neglected)

but here, today, still sitting on this shelf.

Some arrived anointed with the nous, at a minimum, 

of knowing and having them. 

What is the value today of these long-ago treasures

now stashed in the attic? What do they all add up to?

And in the meantime, how could we pass up the chance 

for another flip through Paris Review No. 190?

And miss out forever—to potentially “efface”

Elizabeth Arnold’s take on Steven Weinberg’s ideas

about the power of light at the dawn of the universe? 

And miss out on that stanza break?

“Let be be finale of seem,” indeed.

Almost the longest day of the longest year ever

and one of the prettiest, well, so far. 

It’s 5:30 A.M. and bright pink, June 12th, Year Zero.

On an extra long break from my first downtown job: usher

at the Uptown Backstage, on Balmuto, 1979,

I purchased Reggatta de Blanc at Records on Wheels.

In spring, 1989, that shop was gone 

and a new career as Book City bookseller had begun at the same address—

working with three people who are today old friends—

and that job, those people were vital.

But Reggatta de Blanc on vinyl in some part also made me. 

“Negligible contamination,” indeed.

The old Technics is slowing down.

No new records are being brought into the house now.

No used ones either.

And into the box goes Reggatta de Blanc

waiting for Sonic Boom to reopen for business.

Then we’ll know the value definitively. In cash or trade.

(With a line from the Wallace Stevens poem “The Emperor of Ice-Cream.”)