photo of library card catalog

The Librarian by Brent Canle

So many days I’ve spent stalking the collections, picking books off the shelf just to feel their weight in my hands. I test the strength of their cover, the hard stitch of the binding, the glue tense and still intact. The contents of the books never matter. The words themselves are only empty symbols. Rather, I concern myself with the whole of all those pages dense with ink. 

When I find the appropriate book, I bring it to the front desk. The librarian, that marvel, takes the book from me and, with both hands, breaks my nose with its spine. Blood pours out like a tea kettle. The card in the back is stamped with my ink, and the book returns to the shelf. 

The librarian is an awkward kind of sexy, as if confidence can be found through knowledge: an understanding of the body’s relation to its surroundings; the way legs can shake in their own boredom, begging for purpose, to be used and stretched. 

For months now, I’ve been building up the courage to ask for a date, something a bit more serious than coffee. A light lunch, perhaps, at a place with ‘bistro’ in the name. Then maybe a stroll along the river walk. I bet there is a shop to get ice cream that sells obscure flavors like dandelion.

“It tastes like burnt toast,” one of us will say.

“Oh you!” the other responds. “It tastes like roasted coffee bean.”

Which is, of course, more right. 

I’ve been checking out weak books lately. Thin paperbacks and old editions, soft and ignored, barely holding themselves together. It takes the bridge of my nose a few more thwacks before it finally snaps. The librarian has taken notice.

Brent Canle is a poet, educator, and bartender in Raleigh, NC. He holds an MFA and an MA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Phantom Drift, Caliban, Angry Old Man, Fur-Lined Ghettos, Bull Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, and more. He reads a poem day at the IG account The Poem We Need Today (@_tpwnt_).

Lead image: “Card Catolog” (via Flickr user Gregg Richards)