When I cried finishing The Lord of the Rings.
it was for the sheer once-ness of the pleasure 
of first immersion in a magnificent
dream.  Now it was over and like Sam coming
home to the Shire, I was returning from the
marvelous to the mundane.  (And what of
Frodo?  It looked to me as if he was on
his way out of this—or that Middle—world.)

Everything happens one time only.  How
reluctant we are to see that.  We comfort
ourselves with the illusion that
experiences are repeatable.  But
truly when we finish the book it’s over.
My bookshelves are time that can never be
reclaimed, like the Grand Canyon.  Finally
we must trust how deep they’ve gone into us.

Each of our days, with its beginning,
encounters along the path, and ending,
is a novel we read only once.  Blake wanted
to live in “Eternity’s sunrise.”  I wish
I knew how that was done.  I remember
that album of Lorca’s poems set
to music I didn’t buy in Barcelona,
telling myself, I can get that next time . . .



Thomas R. Smith



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