Shelves and stacks and shelves of skulls, a Dewey Decimal number inked on each unfurrowed forehead. Here’s a skull who, before he lost his fleshy parts and lower bones, once walked beside a river (we’re in the poetry section now) his head full of love and loneliness; and this smaller skull, in the sociology stacks, smiling (they’re all smiling) — it’s been empty a hundred years. That slot across the temple? An ax blow that fractured her here. Look at this one from the children’s shelves, a baby, his fontanel a screaming mouth and this time no teeth, no smile. Here’s a few (history) — a murderer, and this one — see how close their eye sockets! — a thief, and here’s a rack of torturers’ skulls beneath which a longer row of the tortured, and look: generals’ row, their epaulets on the shelves to each side of them. Shelves and shelves, stacks stacked on top of stacks, floor above floor, this towering high-rise library of skulls, not another bone in the place and just now the squeak of a wheel on a cart piled high with skulls on their way back to shelves while in the next aisle a cart filling with those about to be loaned to the tall, broken-hearted man waiting at the desk, his library card face down before him.
© Thomas Lux