Achebe to Zwiren

Ajay Ramachandran
The section marked “W” had but two books;
It looked as desolate as a near-toothless smile.
He stood there surprised as the books quaked
and the thin one fell flat with determined finality.
W, though not an uncommon alphabet, was rather old–
think Wilde, Wells, Wharton, Whitman.
It needed some life, some freshness, some Oprahness.
He gazed at the couple on the shelf: a slim Woolf and a stout Wodehouse.
What an odd couple!
One was stream-of-consciousness and the other template.
And he had walked in on them rudely,
interrupting their moment of intimacy.
He sighed aloud. He had work to do.
Friday had arrived and with it a large shipment, frowsty and fungal.
Rows and rows of shelves, as dull as hospital beds, to be filled.
But he stood there, oblivious, wondering about the pair.
How they got on, what they did to pass the time?
Does he make her laugh? Does she make him laugh?
Does she excoriate his triviality? Does he trivialize her nonlinearity?
Did they ever meet in real life? Or date, in a dated early twentieth century way?
He would have held the door for her. But would she have even accepted?
He was born in 1881, she 1882 (fifteen years as librarian, isn’t that expected?).
Hmm, not impossible.
Google, the presumptuous, the idiot savant, the infallible
will no doubt settle it.
But he was a librarian goddamit.
He knew books by name, by sight: from Achebe to Zwiren,
Like a teacher knows his students, old and new.
He ought to find it out.
The PA went up. Wanted at the counter!
He scribbled a lazy note and moved away, after the third summons.
A customer waited and he knew it was the old gentleman in green.
Not as much a customer as a frequent visitor who would
In his important-looking manner ask of obscure authors and books,
And always left empty-handed, but satisfied, when told of the absence.
“Do you have Charles Bigg?” the green bad man leaned forward.
The Friday jokes had abated and there were two more hours to go.

Joshua Rodriguez

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