Corey Mesler

Visions of Jean

Jack Kerouac wrote a sentence as long as a jail term, one that went on and on, like a road that winds into the middle distance, disappears around a bend, and comes out of the darkness again like a dragon meditating, like the last round before we pass each other going home, a road of asylum and then again turning once more, not knowing any better.

Barbara, Who Hung the Stars
Return, like stars replenished at Joy’s golden urn.
           —Thomas Hood
      When we moved the bookstore to its new location, a ramshackle building in Midtown Memphis, the bathroom at the back was bleak, bleak. Barbara took it as a personal challenge. She painted the window frame midnight blue so that delicate light was framed with night sky. She painted the exposed pipes arterial crimson. And she hung paper stars, simple things, from the ceiling with just some fishing line and tape. Once I kissed Barbara when I wasn’t supposed to. We were both married to other people. She was leaving town for good; I was holding my one-year old son in my arms. I couldn’t let her just vanish and when our lips met I knew a tenderness that I had previously only surmised. The kiss lasted only as long as the wings of sleep. On the other hand, the stars still hang there in that sanctified bathroom almost twenty years later. Whenever I chance to look up instead of inward I am reminded of Barbara, her easy grace, her sense of humor, and her desire to turn something unwelcoming into the vault of heaven. And that kiss comes back like our gypsy ambitions.


I want to believe that Penelope waited,
that she knit while she waited.
I want to believe in the suitors sleeping
on the floor outside her chamber.
I want to believe it all happened and it’s
happening again even now as I write this.
I want to believe that you are reading
this because you want to believe.
That it’s not all unraveling, that it’s not
all just about waiting, or even about love.

Corey Mesler is the owner of Burke’s Book Store, in Memphis, Tennessee, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. He has published poetry and fiction in numerous journals including Rattle, Pindeldyboz, Quick Fiction, Cranky, Thema, Mars Hill Review, Adirondack Review, Poet Lore and others. He has also been a book reviewer for The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Memphis Flyer. A short story of his was chosen for the 2002 edition of New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, published by Algonquin Books. Talk, his first novel, appeared in 2002. Nice blurbs from Lee Smith, John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Frederick Barthelme, and others. His new novel, We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon, came out in January 2006. It garnered praise from George Singleton, Marshall Chapman, Steve Stern and others. His latest poetry chapbooks are Chin-Chin in Eden (2003), Dark on Purpose (2004), Short Story and Other Short Stories (2006) and The Agoraphobe’s Pandiculations (2006). His poem, “Sweet Annie Divine,” was chosen for Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He also claims to have written “Gitarzan.” Most importantly, he is Toby and Chloe’s dad and Cheryl’s husband. He can be found at www.coreymesler.com.

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