A Day Spent in a U-Haul with John and Mark by Scott Silsbe

It’s early at the warehouse and we chug down
as much coffee as we can before John tells us
it’s time to load the U-Haul with empty boxes
and we hop in the cab with Mark in the middle.
The first stop’s an old house on top of Etna Hill
with a grotesquely large yard out front that has
John and Mark referencing a painting by Wyeth,
debating whether it is pastoral or rather sinister.

Inside the house, the books aren’t all that great,
but John tells us he’s buying this large bookcase
and that he wants us to lug it out to the U-Haul.
We scoot the bookcase out from its back corner
and it doesn’t seem too heavy, just very tall, and
I tip the top towards Mark and a lovely collection
of cat hair and cobwebs floats up from underneath,
dusting my pants and shirt and arms. We make it
through the rooms of the house and out the front
and into the U-Haul. The summer heat is intense
inside the truck and now the cobwebby cat hair
on my arms sticks to me with my own sweat.

Once we’re back in the house, John tells me to
pack up a big, ugly old lamp and to go through
the record collection by the stereo and I do and
there are some really nice records and they are
in really nice shape too. I set aside a stack of
Dylan, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, even a
pretty old Gram Parsons, and I think that I will
skim that one off the top but give most to Kris
for Desolation Row. Once we load the boxes
of not-so-great books in the back of the truck
around the bookcase, we’re done with loading
this one, and I bring the records into the cab
of the truck, hold onto them for safe keeping.

Next stop is the offices of Pitt Press in Oakland
and we park the truck illegally on a side street,
get buzzed into the building and wheel dollies
to the elevator and the second floor. Pitt Press
is moving and they need to get rid of overstock
and I ask John how long the offices have been
here and if this is where his father-in-law used
to work with Paul Zimmer back in the day—
Zimmer being a great poet and personal hero
of mine. But John says this is not that office,
that Pitt Press has moved their offices before.
The boxes are packed for us already, so we
take them blindly, go back down the elevator
and out to the truck. Over lunch, John tells
us the last collection is a place in Shadyside
that used to be the home of George Romero.

The Romero house is a big, beautiful place
on a quiet, shady street. George’s ex-wife
invites us in, introduces us to her new guy,
who is also named George, and shows us
what to pack up. There are two matching
gigantic bookcases, larger than the beast
in the truck already, and I can see John is
trying to judge if he can take those too.
Romero himself is not around, but there
are large, framed, blown-up photographs
of him with his family shuffled in beside
Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead,
Creepshow, and Day of the Dead posters
all in various languages and no doubt all
from theaters in countries around the globe.
We do not take the photographs or posters.
And we leave the enormous bookcases.
We find some good horror-related books
and CDs. And Mark walks away with
George Romero’s turntable, purchased
for him by John and in good working order.

Mark and I drop John at the U-Haul place
so he can go to the shop, and we head back
to the warehouse to unload. A summer storm
is moving in, darkening the sky up over us,
so we hustle to rid the back of the U-Haul
of the boxes of books, the big ugly lamp,
the beastly bookcase, getting it all in the bay
of the warehouse before the rain comes down.
Mark leaves for the day, I get back to U-Haul
to return the truck, and then I can call it a day.
Exhausted as I am, I have enough time to get
over to Hemingway’s to see the great Lori
give a reading and to follow her to Trafford
afterwards to have lemon-beers with Dave.
And tomorrow, it’s off to State College, PA
with John to pack up three more collections.

Scott Silsbe was born in Detroit and now lives in Pittsburgh. His poems have recently appeared in numerous periodicals including Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, and The Chariton Review. He is the author of two collections of poems: Unattended Fire and The River Underneath the City.

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