A few greasy looking smears
And next to them, written in soft pencil-
By a beautiful girl, I could tell,
Whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."
The poem climaxes with a description of a marginal note that the speaker remembers in a library book, and that he imagines was written by a beautiful girl.
These final lines show the speaker imagining the note-writer leaving her message after becoming so enthralled with Holden Caulfield that she drops her sandwich on the book. The notion of a young female reader falling in love with Caulfield has also been touched on in David Levithan’s novel The Realm of Possibility.
Alternatively, it’s possible that the note referred to some real-life person the girl was in love with — perhaps someone of whom Holden reminded her. Whether it’s two lovers brought together through a favorite book or a love affair between reader and character, it’s also an allegory for the love of reading more broadly.
To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit "Marginalia" by Billy Collins and leave a comment on the lyrics box