THE HARVARD CLASSICS
My grandfather bought a set for his living room,
fifty-one imitation-leather-bound volumes billed
by Collier & Son as a liberal education distilled
to “a five-foot shelf.” He was a university dean —
OK, of agriculture — but they looked like something
from bookshelves in films about the highborn,
had that air of seasoned privilege, of green swards,
laced with groundskeepers, footmen, upstairs maids.
When Grandpa died, my father, who didn’t read
books, moved them to our living room, said they
showed class, taste, education. The room tried on
their eminence, became a trifle less unHarvard.
One afternoon, intrigued, I pulled out Volume 4,
Complete Poems in English, Milton, whose sermonics
in thundering blank-verse dismissed me back
to my shelf Classic Comics. Ten years later,
the books languished in a yard-sale, marked down
with their kind in yards across the country.