My Secret Lansing

2023 anthology of prose and poetry, edited by Ruelaine Stokes & Laura Apol, featuring many writers from the Greater Lansing Area, Michigan,

Poem-to-Go by Nan Jackson (p. 36)

Hundreds of people spend time on the Northern Tier Trail near my neighborhood between Coleman and State Roads. Looking out from my back porch under the slats of the backyard fence, I see their feet or wheels passing by: runners and walkers, baby strollers, skateboards, rollerblades, bicycles. Most of them probably never notice my “Secret Lansing” place, even though it’s right out in the open, in plain sight beside the trail. Maybe too plain: a white wooden box on a pole. Nothing to indicate what it is, ever since the glass door got broken and someone repaired it with solid wood that hides the books inside. No “Little Library” sign to entice a hiker to pause for a moment or a cyclist to jump off their bike to take a look.

I wonder what the passersby think it is. I wonder how many people stop to unhook the latch and look. I wonder if anyone who takes the time to glance at the books tucked inside also notices the brass cup hook I once attached to the door, visible only if you open it. For eighteen months, starting on Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day at the end of April 2021, that cup hook was my secret spot.

I didn’t expect it to go on so long, my habit of selecting a new poem every few weeks, typing it up to make a dozen or so copies, printing information about the poem on a piece of cardstock, folding the cardstock to make a pocket, punching a hole in the top to hang from the hook, stapling the sides, stuffing it full of poems. “Poem to Go!” the pocket announced. “Take a poem with you on your walk.”

There’s no poem-pocket hanging on the hook today. I don’t know why I stopped. I loved browsing my many poetry books for poems short enough to fit in someone’s pocket, poems to take in at a glance and worth re-reading with each step forward along the trail. Poems that brought a broad spectrum of different voices out into the world. Maybe someone else will take up the thread and make this secret spot their own, wide open to everyone who passes by.

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