From the collection published in 2018, Pink Chalk.
front desk. Summertime.
Read books from the discard cart.
Last time those pages
may be turned.
A reprieve. A stay.
chance to speak
to one more mind. To survive
destruction. To live.
In the Trap
disappearing into the gloom of the library stacks
wearing a yellow dress
following the beacon light of her phone’s screen
down the rows of shelves
lured on by tempting prospects of
gossip or chatter or just filling the air
the chance that the one something
she is looking for
might finally make itself known to her
from somewhere else
always somewhere else
to the words
she passes between in pursuit
of the opposite of
stop and look where you are
look for it where you are.
I make to call out but
she moves into the darkness
the fading fluorescent flicker
the last I ever see of her
From the collection published in 2018, Clean Canvas.
Prehistoric Message Current and Today
The library cart
metal, shelves, books
you’ve seen them
way off back behind me
I hear it. Intermittent cries
a screech-shriek repeated
drawn out and wavering variations
rising above the other library sounds
heating system hiss
click of computer keys
student snuffle late-winter cold
across the plain of tables books carpet chatter
like a dinosaur elephant raptor bird
Human laughter from the area of the circulation desk
just goes on and conversation and
no one pays any attention
my head raises
I do hear it.
wants something different
I don’t know why
this is what I hear
when everybody else hears
oil my wheels
But I do.
From the collection Refuge, 2017.
Third Floor Section QA
The student walks
stutter-stepping along the row
not yet not yet almost
The Library of Congress system
narrowing things down
letter letter number number
set of thoughts made tangible
The student hooks her finger
into the top of the spine
pulling the book toward her
a whole chunk of
she’ll find out
when she sits down to read.
The student straightens her back
glides down the aisle
the sound softened by the ranks of books
she didn’t take
From Enough for a Book, published in 2016.
Compressed Deliberation and Decisions Made
puts the brakes on
a wave of
floral body wash arriving seconds later
Not unpleasant but
intrusive. Whispers to herself
running her finger over the shelf.
Impatient. Not finding.
Strikes off to the right
tacking around the table. Out of sight.
The books she has rejected
and would not have suited her
From Enough for a Book, published in 2016.
Line of Attack
and her t-shirt a little too tight
wearing flip flops and peering at the top shelf
like she can see it. Stretches out her arm
-that won’t accomplish a thing-
to grasp a book out of her reach. Gives up.
Whisks around the corner of the shelf
without looking back
just like the cat does when he’s knocked the lamp
off the table
but says he never.
From the collection published in 2017, Refuge.
The reader sits in the library
the atolls of peeled varnish
strung along the deep pale gouge
in a generous open-arm sweep
the table a map of endurance and patience
and the spark
of picking up the trail
The books the dried pages the dense air
the heater’s incessant roaring promising heat and
producing none. The thick stone walls
that hold in the chill. The windows spattered
with raindrops blown hard against them
vibrating in the wind. Somewhere outside a gutter
overflows the water slapping the stone. The granite windowsill
cold when I rest my hands on it the radiator
cold when I rest my hands on it the fluorescent bulbs
hang in fixtures without covers and every other one
seems to flicker. The filing cabinets no longer needed
miles of them lining the end walls on each floor a scrap metal
bonanza the shelves a darkened turquoise
a color no one can replicate
today full of books exactly what a library should be
full of books and the rest of it irrelevant
as long as I can get at those books.
From the collection Look Winter in the Face, 2015.
Setting For A Dream
The library is
too hot and the air is
too dried-out and
smelling like baked paper
rustling with all the thoughts
inside all the heads
of all the people
scattered around the maze of desks
filled with people
hiding yawns and cold drinks
The noisy soporific silence
by the voices of two librarians
way off at the front desk
speaking in street-level tones, mighty perky,
about something not to do with the library.
The black night presses
hard outside the windows
the readers at the tables reflected in the glass
The hiss of the heating system wraps in and among
books and words
old paper and crinkly upholstered chairs.
The man sitting at the center table yawns again.
Blur photo, black/white, 2018.
Paint peels from the ceiling
in the basement of the library
hanging in curls above the shelves of
bound volumes of ancient magazines
waiting for a consultation
and enjoying the quiet
in the meantime. The linoleum floor
patterned in the style
of fifty years ago
shows it can still come up to a good shine.
is solid and full of dust
blown out of the heating vents
switching on and off so suddenly
that I jump. I take a selection
from a turquoise metal shelf
and settle in to read.