Oracle at Acres of Books
A capella in the Greek and Roman
stacks, the woman clears
her throat. She seems to like
moderato cantabile, sings on her knees,
a babble of feeling
out of her life into mine.
Hair wild, body masking
new paperback smell, soon
she’ll be asked to leave
the slick unbroken
spines that keep in tact
days of the market god, a pillar
with the bearded head of Hermes.
Back then, you laid
a coin on the altar before whispering
a question in his ear.
The answer: first words heard outside.
Her voice is good, a chanson in some painful
minor key. Notes falter, the manager arrives.
I slip away, pay for my books. Tom
behind the counter hands
me a receipt, wishes me good night —
his eyes never meet mine, as if we shared
some guilty past. Two smokers laugh
outside the door, kicking up snow.
We’re not helpless!
yells one of them. Stamping their feet,
they go back inside, tired of being cold.
For process notes, see “Vanishing Biography“