Thomas Lux

1946 / Northampton, Massachusetts

A Library Of Skulls

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.
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