The Most Shoplifted Poet In America

Our poem of the week is not a poem at all, but a bit of flash fiction about poetry from a California author, Guy Biederman.

The Most Shoplifted Poet in America

    “Would Bukowski be in poetry,” I ask the young man who is reading behind the counter. I’d already gone to the poetry section and perused the ‘B’s with no luck.

    The young man smiles. “We keep Bukowski behind the counter here.”

    “Why is that?”

    “He’s the most shoplifted poet in America.”

    Once in a Venice Beach bookstore, I’d gone to the “B’s” and found the same thing.

    The clerk invited me behind the counter and I discovered a treasure trove of Bukowski titles I’d never seen.  Above Bukowski was John Fante, also on the endangered list. Interesting because Fante was not well known, but Bukowski admired him, was a friend. Did that mean the book thieves were actually reading Bukowski and then Fante to see what Buk saw? Feel what he felt?

    Who else? I wanted to know.

    “Murakami,” said the clerk.

    “Hmmm … what about Carver?”

    The clerk smiled. “No, Carver’s safe.”

    "Well, wait till the Murakami shoplifters find out how much he liked Raymond Carver. Those books will fly off the shelves.”

    The clerk grinned. There was a time I had to stop reading Buk. A magazine editor had rejected a piece of mine and said I had to quit sleeping with Bukowski under my pillow. I doubt he ever stole a Bukowski. I doubt he ever stole anything.

    I paid for a copy of Factotum, shook the young clerk’s hand. He was a screenwriter, taking a couple of years off grad school at UCLA. MFA? Yeah.

    Years ago I too had worked in a bookstore and was pleased to see young people still interested. It restored my faith, I told him. He smiled and turned to the register to make change.

    Then I slipped a copy of What We Talk About when We Talk About Love into my large leather coat.

    Ray deserved that.

               Guy Biederman
               Sausalito, California