To the high reading rooms on Shattuck,
spaces ample and legendary,
poets go for camaraderie
and–spreading our papers about–for work.
One lumpen brings his lunch, tucks
his bedding up, and opens his bible
on the long, hardwood table.
He is haloed in golden dreadlocks.
Though Sabbath, here we spend and borrow,
and have our fair share of sprees,
sucking the sweet from Dante’s leaves
in stacks only a librarian can burrow.
But what we borrow we must return–
on that the Head Librarian is firm.
I understood even my childhood as one–
house of many rooms open for the Guest
who bemoans fate or smiles or sighs or jests
within this pale skin, this arch of bone.
Each morning, invited or not, she comes:
her moods and songs and whims the beings who nest
in the high timbers of my frame, and test
their bright wings in my light, capacious rooms.
But some days my doors flap, I fold my tent,
and to her surprise the Guest is shown bare
floors to sit upon; she must wait half-froze
till other houses open, a convent,
perhaps, a stony dwelling more foursquare,
capstone inscribed beneath a window.
Good-byes. I do hate them so.
Arranging our face, we say: “You’ll be missed.”
True, as far as it goes. But we’re also
Happy and relieved, glad it’s not us
Falling dead or migrating to Bangladesh.
No, no, we’re not the least jealous.,
Though we avoid naming our anguish
At the emptiness the going leaves us.
That can fly like a hardball
To the gut of endings: “What? No sequel?
Tossed back, the words stick in my caw.
If I stay till next year, I can expect
The fine retaliation, “On second thought. . .”
And the flaming sword of my regrets.