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In Which I Speak with James Tate About James Tate, Now Late

May he rest in peace.

July 23, 2015

Photo-Illustration: Eric Vilas-Boas
Photo-Illustration: Eric Vilas-Boas

Nearly a week ago I received James Tate’s newest book of poems in the mail. He had died earlier in the month. Upon seeing the book I naturally became at once quite pleased and deeply sad. I put the poems on my desk. Yesterday I brought them home, but when I opened my backpack, the book was not there. Had I forgotten to pack it? I looked up and James Tate was sitting in the white sofa chair in the corner. “Hello,” he said. “I didn’t see you come in.” “James,” I said. “But you’re dead!” “Am I?” he said. “They must have forgotten to tell me. Anyway, how did you like the book?” “I couldn’t tell you. I had just brought it home to read and now it’s not here,” I said. “Well, we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?” said the book now settled on the sofa chair. I walked over and picked it up. I read the first few pages and then a few more. “I feel like I’m in a James Tate poem,” I said. “Why’s that?” the book said. “An empty chair was just filled with a dead writer who then became a talking book,” I said. “Uncanny,” said the book, looking a good deal more like a dead writer. “Would you put me down?” “Of course,” I said. “Would you like a drink?” “No, thank you,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a James Tate poem because I’m speaking with something improbable,” I said. “Like the one with the speaker conversing with a blob.” “I see,” said the blob that was once a dead writer and also a book. “And the one with toy soldiers who are also real soldiers but also not,” I said. “Peculiar,” said the toy soldier where the blob sat. “Most peculiar,” I said. I went to open the window and look out at the stars. “Well, good luck with it,” said the voice from the chair. “I hope you like the book.” “Thank you,” I said. I turned to the chair, where a book lay splayed open though its spine had never been cracked. Cool air came from the opened window and its pages turned themselves in the wind.

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