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Junior year college I moved
out of the dorms, answering
an ad for a small two-bedroom pad
a few blocks from town.
My roommate a grad student
and a bit of a hermit.
It took a month for him
to tell me his dissertation
was on the Dead Sea scrolls.
A living room cabinet full
of microfiche slides in stacks.
He talked about them for hours.
That was the closest we got.
He moved out by semester end.
A girlfriend moved in, then
my brother, back from Santa Fe,
and the place became a salon
of sorts, parties cropping up
every weekend. A honkytonk
quartet lived behind us.
The lead singer, gorgeous
and kind, would come over
after fights with her old man.
We’d get her stoned. She’d sing
Fever when you kiss me
Fever when you hold me tight
and eat our spaghetti.
My brother moved out
and soon I did too.
But what a wild place,
never more so, I see now,
than when the scrolls
were lined up on the floor,
fragment by ancient fragment,
and a shy scholar tried to give
a young poet a glimpse into
that world of ghosts. Breathing
each letter to life, picking up
then setting down the flimsy
microfiche slides. I am surprised
the whole place didn’t burn down.