The Library Users

Here we like to return our books

cleaner than we think they were.


The paperbacks are complicated,

for we’ve made them with skin so soft and sweet

it cracks into lightning strikes and shrieks

at the gentlest dab of cologne

at every plea to stay presentable or

to spit out millions in loose change from between its pages

and pay the bill.

We give excuses

for every layer of filth that accumulates and devours the paper.

So the pages rot.

And fall apart.


A hardcover is built for scrubbing.

With time we pale

garish hues and obscene lettering

to something more palatable and pure

that complements all the other trophies on the shelf

and makes it less conspicuous,

as who cares for the title of a paperweight?

Nobody judges the shell

of a former shell, except for, perhaps


Itself, who will not let its spine break

even when pinned down and flattened against a table.

We think it vain.


But every book falls to the counter in the end,

runs under the same scanner

drops into the same pile:

here the paperbacks and hardcovers

and pop-up books and audiobooks and everything in between

can feel each other’s tears

each other’s shelf lives and

hold each other through their covers

(and perhaps then they realise

there’s so very little that they don’t have in common.)

until we return

to force, and grab, and pull them apart once more.