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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A Library Of Skulls