getting old

The death of Rue Morgue bookstore owner Enid Schantz, a longtime supporter of mystery writers all over the world, has made me remember. I remember the story Tom and Enid told of the mountain lions that lounged on their deck outside Boulder, trapping them in their house. I remember my first ever book signing  (with Jan Burke who was so cool and calm compared to me) back in 1994. And the many kindnesses over the years, the acceptance into the mystery world Enid and Tom gave me. I remember the piles of books they ordered for Left Coast Crime this year for me, in Santa Fe. And the sorrow I saw on Enid’s face there.

I also remember the Left Coast Crime in Boulder that Tom and Enid put on. It was really the best one (sorry other organizers!) with Kinky Friedman’s Texas Jewboys and a slew of other “talent” at the Boulderado Theater. And the tone poem I wrote for the occasion. In Enid’s memory here it is again. I wish I had Bill Moody again on drums, John Harvey on tambourine, and the other guys snapping their fingers. But this is for you, Enid.


By Lise McClendon

I am a book.
Sheaves pressed from the pulp of oaks and pines
a natural sawdust made dingy from purses, dusty from shelves.
Steamy and anxious, abused and misused, kissed and cried over,
smeared, yellowed, and torn, loved, hated, scorned.

I am a book.

I am a book that remembers, days when I stood proud in good company

When the children came, I leapt into their arms,
when the women came, they cradled me against their soft breasts,
when the men came, they held me like a lover,
and I smelled the sweet smell of cigars and brandy as we sat together in leather chairs,
next to pool tables, on porch swings, in rocking chairs, my words hanging in the air like bright gems, dangling, then forgotten, I crumbled, dust to dust.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
a book brand-new, sprung from the loins of ancient fathers clothed in tweed,
born of mothers in lands of heather and coal soot.
A family too close to see the blood on its hands, too dear to suffering, to poison, to cold steel and revenge,
deaf to the screams of mortal wounding, amused at decay and torment,
a family bred in the dankest swamp of human desires.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
I am a mystery.

I am intrigue, anxiety, fear,
I tangle in the night with madmen, spend my days cloaked in black,
hiding from myself, from dark angels, from the evil that lurks within
and the evil we cannot lurk without.

I am words of adventure, of faraway places where no one knows my tongue, of curious cultures in small, back alleys, mean streets, the crumbling house in each of us.

I am primordial fear, the great unknown,
I am life everlasting.
I touch you and you shiver, I blow in your ear and you follow me,
down foggy lanes, into places you’ve never seen, to see things no one should see,
to be someone you could only hope to be.

I ride the winds of imagination on a black-and-white horse,
to find the truth inside of me, to cure the ills inside of you,
to take one passenger at a time over that tall mountain,
across that lonely plain to a place you’ve never been
where the world stops for just one minute and everything is right.

I am a mystery.

Copyright © 2000 Lise McClendon