overheard at the library


Librarian is a whisper of civility.

There's nothing, he says, he can do,

and unfolds his hands,

a fan of impotence.

The man across the counter cares nothing

for the velvet niceties of the library.

A thickened fist slams down, 

a percussion heard from biography to science-fiction.

The library winces.

"I didn't know," the man says with a hint of a lisp,

a soft place in his speech that makes me suddenly solicitous,

less agape.

"She's nine years old." He dips

his balding head toward the blond girl

who is bordering him,


and ivory.

"Why you people giving away library cards - 

t  o    c  h  i  l  d  r  e  n?"

The last two words are bristled, thorny.

For a moment, all of us, 

or at least the two of us in Fiction:  Aa-Be, 

feel ridiculous.

Librarian taps the stack of books,

explains that fines double after six months, 

then collections.

His voice is a parchment rustle,

something to keep far away from matches and from lighters.

"But 384 dollars!"

Underneath you can hear it:  the water bill, electric, the car has broken down

"For this old book?

"For this one?

"And this movie is from 1986!"

The fist, once more, comes down.

"Six months,"

begins Librarian, a cavern of respectfulness.


The Ivory Girl speaks.


"We haven't had those books for six months, mister."

She tosses her corn silk, a Queen.

"It hasn't been six months, 

It's been maybe three months.


I think five, daddy.  Yes, it was five months."

She nods and folds her arms, commences the wait.

She is regal, inevitable,

towering in her rescue.


Down among the book stacks, from self-help all the way to poetry, 

the library bows its head,

an encyclopedia of regret.


 Writing poetry this month along with NaPoWriMo .