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Poem of the Week: “Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia” by Carol Townsend

By Carol Townsend Door-to door my mother went in her robin’s-egg-blue Plymouth, lugging boxes of books, “better than growing vegetables”… in our neighborhood, World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica reigned, but armed with the gravitas of a former teacher, she sold enough sets| to win a trip to New York City, sold even more , and miraculously, a volume appeared in our rural mailbox once a month until the bookcase groaned under the weight of all fifteen. While friends watched television, I read leather-bound gold-embossed tomes as soon as each arrived, from cover-to-cover, looking up unfamiliar words. In seventh grade, the teacher scolded me, said “gossamer” was not a word, red-marked my composition on the nature of angel wings. In high school, no nun could stump me with a Reader’s Digest word-of-the month. The set moldered in my garage until yesterday’s recycle pickup, its pages stuck together, edges foxed, spines mildewed – no resale value for all that knowledge. Contributor’s Note: CAROL TOWNSEND is an associate professor and former chairwoman of the Design Department at SUNY Buffalo State.