Matthew Lippman

Dewey Decimaling

Librarians freak the shit out of me.
All of them wear glasses and even the pretty ones look tired.
I scream, Stop being so tired. They sit in their librarian chairs for five hours and scan
Tolstoy and Seuss.
No one’s outside fixing phone wires in thirty degree wind.
What’s the problem, people?
Wake up.
You have master’s degrees in Library Science,
you read in three languages.


Hell, I was a librarian once, in college,
I know what it is like;
I smoked pot in the men’s room,
walked upstairs and made love to the coeds
in Reference.
That’s what kept me going until I lost my mind one day
doing cocaine in Periodicals
while I was supposed to be Dewey Decimal-ing
the entire Non-Fiction section.
I loved David Halberstam and David McCullough,
the smell of World War II and Abraham Lincoln,
and it was cold outside.
It was a dream job–
everyone was quiet,
the building was quiet,
the earth around the building was still
and even the stray dogs that ran through the lobby
did not bark.


So, it freaks me out when I walk into my branch on Homer Ave.
and try to be nice to the women at Circulation.
No one smiles and the halls of literature weep.
It’s a damned shame.
These ladies act like Secret Service Agents
but the only president here
is the president of silence.
Their pencil tips are finely sharpened and even the young ones have chapped lips.
It makes me mad
because in twenty years
I’m afraid there won’t be any more books.


Maybe these ladies are so morose
because in the secret society of librarians,
they already know this—
that their extinction is imminent.
If so, they should drink more beer before work
and no one should wear a bra.
That way when The Man comes to say their services are no longer required
they will already be drunk and half way to naked
while the rest of us watch
as they burn books into their chests
then run wild into the woods out back
while the book police take aim
and fire at will.
That shit freaks me out.

Matthew Lippman