by Cynthia Shur Petts

I spent many years working in a library, and I have a collection of things left tucked inside books that were returned or donated to the library. Letters, cards, assignments, notes to self, pamphlets, doodles, photographs. They’ve always brought me great joy as discovered treasures and secret insights into peoples’ lives, from the very mundane to the very personal. But especially now, they feel like profound little declarations of life going on.

Sometime during the run of Home/Place, the phrase “found/remembered” floated into my head in relation to these items. I wrote it down, but it wasn’t until the invitation to participate in the Winter Salon that I sat down to compose something out of my found words. Every line or phrase in this poem is taken from one of those discovered treasures.


Dear Helen,
Dear Friend,

Let me write you a picture:

My desk is speckled blue.
Johnny and Jimmy both got up Sunday with chicken pox.
I am thankfull for knowing you.

I wanted to go to the beach before it got really cold.
If we’re being honest 
that’s one of the things 
I’m sad we never got to do.
I sang it alone in the house, 
holding down the long dark chords,
tucked away in my copy of The Old Man and the Sea.

I keep wondering if you’ve changed much.

Are you playing baseball this year?
Why am I in love with Kyle?
Remember how I told you 
that halfway through winter quarter I cracked
and went to Build-A-Bear 
and made a dragon?
If you get a minute could you please call me? 
When everything is empty 

where can dust collect?

I will surely use your words.
You told me once,
“Revelation is objective and from above.”
You told me once,
“One can reasonably utter a hurrah 
for man’s evolutionary struggling.”
You told me once,
“There is a certain mystique, 
a certain magnetism, 
about the Clydesdale.”
You told me once,
“I kiss your hands,” in Romanian.

In the new world,
I am what I dreamed.
Yes, I think.
Her door was open, 
she wanted to hear my music.
A birdcage hung
in the sunny window of her house.
A light to the modern world,
subjective and from below.

Johnny is rocking the crib so guess I had better go. 
The chicken pox haven’t slowed him up at all.

So here’s to all the little things:
My reading chair and bookshelf.
The garden of live flowers.
Someone complimented me 
on my handwriting yesterday. 
Won’t be long until you’ll be home.

Love and kisses from all.
Please forgive me.
Please return.

Dec. 25th, 1903.

From the desk of Mrs. J.P. Savage,
Mr. Mortimer, Treasurer,
from Phyllis.

Flossmoor, Illinois.

I sang it alone in the house, 
holding down the long dark chords:
Turn on light. 
Turn on heat. 
Just before the blessing,
after the blessing,
rain or shine.

Cynthia Shur Petts is the Administrative Assistant at Third Rail.