Paul Theroux, the Absent-Minded Baker
On Thursday night—here’s what we’d planned to do:
An Akron speech by writer Paul Theroux.
We drove to Akron’s E. J. Thomas Hall,
Which was not all that crowded—not at all.
We found some seats—and saved one for our son,
Who found us well before it had begun.
Theroux came on—and there on his lapel,
An Akron symbol known so very well:
He wore the fabled Akron kangaroo—
Oh, such a frisky spirit, Paul Theroux.
Theroux—whose novels and whose other books
I’ve read for years—kept giving awkward looks
Down at the podium—and at the crowd—
As if a thick and mystifying cloud
Somehow obscured his view of us and of
The words he sought. He sometimes looked above—
As if the words he’d planned to say had flown
Out of his mind and left him all alone
There on the stage. He managed now and then
To coax some words back to his mind. And when
He did, he quickly uttered them before
They flew again. He spoke an hour or more,
And during the question period, I slipped out
(What was I up to? Is there any doubt!
I hoped to be the first there in the line
When he came out and sat, began to sign
For those who’d brought some books along for that.)
I was the first—few others to combat
For primacy. I’m skilled at such. You knew?
So I was first in line for Paul Theroux,
Who seemed a bit surprised at what I’d brought—
Some books from 1980 (I have got
A lot from decades past. A bookish nerd
Am I, in love with evanescent words.
We drove home in the dark. Along the way
We smelled a local bakery’s bouquet,
The fragrance of tomorrow’s loaves of bread,
Aromas that drew memories from my head
And made me smile. For then I thought of books—
And of their writers, who resemble cooks:
Concoctions and confections don’t just please:
They keep alive our minds and memories.
He stood there with a lot of poise—
He had a lot of weight to hoise—
A massive bag he’d stuffed with toys
For all the little girls and boys.
And Romeo says he will go along—
And sets the stage for all that will go wrong. (1.2)