March 28, 2016

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March 28, 2016


At Northern Illinois University, in Founders Memorial Library, on the top floor, on the north side, I sifted through Ceremonies.  Then I sat, gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows into the night.  Later, I walked down to the Private Collections Room.  The librarians there allowed me to read The Songs of Bilitis.  Its pages were uncut.  They let me cut them with a letter-opener.  They didn’t ask if I was a student.
It was spring, 1979, and I had quit my factory job.  I had decided to take a year off to write.  Almost every day, I drove from Marengo to DeKalb and spent the day at the university.    I wrote at the Lagoon during the day.  I wrote in the library in the evening.  A foot-high pile of Ceremonies pages had collected. 
Returning to the top floor, I pulled out the Ceremonies script.  I couldn’t make sense of it.  I loved the structure that followed no timeline.  I couldn’t let go of it.  I sat flicking through the pages until closing time at 2 AM.  I never broke through.  Then I drove home.

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