Within the four walls of this library

sit three packed into the corner;

shelves, stuffed full of books with dog-eared pages

and slip-disc’d spines and fraying edges,

and a big white sign, which dangles from the ceiling

like a megabat hung on a cave mouth, sleeping and dreaming,

the word “NONFICTION” is inscribed with prominence,

adjacent to signs shouting “MYSTERY” and “SCIENCE


and a thousand other sorts of words

for myth, fabrication, exaggeration. But in this corner

live the rest, the et ceteras, the miscellaneous,

the kingdom of protists; for instance, care for some ethics?

Marx’s manifesto is stacked lazily beside a heap of essays by Rand;

you can practically see the two of them, shaking hands

uneasily, the will to never understand already forming

in their brains, and others yet remain;

Capote and the Clutters share familial space

with the Mansons, hiding helter skelter behind

gnostic gospels and silent springs and a thousand

dreams for Freud to interpret (translated

from German for your convenience); nearby,

Orwell sings war songs in Catalan, accompanied

by the universe’s most elegant superstrings,

and the caged birds, singing of freedom,

harmonizing a melodious cacophony with the song

of the executioner. Butler criticizes his performance,

and she probably would have anyway, but Friedan thinks

he has a certain sort of mystique and Dawkins offers his own critique,

going on about genes and memes, extinction and delusion, but

not hallucinations — Sacks makes the distinction; let us continue

to praise famous men, and their children after them,

these naked apes, with minds so dirty that

they’re riddled with the emperors of all maladies; oh, Morris

Kinsey and Mukherjee could tell you all about these things,

maybe over lunch with Schlosser or dinner with Pollan,

minglings with Machiavelli over affairs of the state,

or affairs of space and a brief history of time; but,

if you’re feeling too full to eat, or to pray, or to love,

ask Frankl what to do; let him change your life

with words from decades yore as he keeps on

his search for meaning just like every man before; at least

that’s the case when these boys’ lives weren’t preoccupied

by artful war or bright and shining lies. And here,

by the holy bookend, lies some old and antiquated glossary

which lost most of its “glossy” many years ago,

for one flip through the pages will catalogue the changes

between what we thought we knew about the stars

and our bodies and doomsday as recently

as your last birthday, and all the things that everyone says

we now know that we know; speak,

memory, remember all you can

about this endless, sundry cosmos, and

the microcosms that it boasts; bury my heart,

if not at Wounded Knee, then maybe at this

library, where comprehension and speculation both

find themselves in coexistence, packed into a single

point resembling the genesis, and fear and hope

take dueling forms, those of fact and mystery;

and now all that’s left to do is read,

until the end of history.


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About the Author

Julia Tallon writes short fiction and poetry in between design gigs while studying at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland.