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Lost in the library

Lost in the library

This poem was written and recorded live for the CBC Radio event Chapter & Verse, at the National Library of Canada in 2004. The theme we were given to write on was “Lost in the library”. Here’s what I came up with….

I was beginning to wonder
why you were never coming home
it was dinner time again,
and I found myself alone
so I called you on your phone

when you answered you whispered,
“just a sec, I’ve gotta step outside”
and I started to wonder
what it was you had to hide

you said, “sorry baby,
I’m just on my way,
I got a call from my friend earlier today
and she told me my books were in,
so I had to stop by
you know how i can get lost in this place –
but everything’s fine, I’ll be home in no time”

well, I know frequenting the library
can’t be called a crime
(not when you’re expanding your mind
in this exemplary fashion, informing yourself,
taking inspiration from every shelf)
but it’s making me feel selfish
for wanting you home —
it’s really not about the hours that I’m spending alone,
it’s about the fact that the phone’s always ringing,
and it’s always for you, and it’s always the same person you’re talking to.
You never say much, she does most of the talking
And you just stand gawking. Then you hang up,
with shortness of breath,
“bye!” You say, leaving the kitchen all in a mess,
“I’m off to the library, I’ll be back soon…”
“But honey,” I say, “there’s no more room
on the shelves for more library books,
they’re all over flowing, so’s every cranny and nook,
and you’ve got fines outstanding…”
but you’re not listening, you’re gone
I watch you sprint across the lawn…
and this is when I begin to suspect
the affair.
But when I ask you what’s going on, you deny anything’s there.
When I ask where you’ve been
all these evenings you say
“Babe, it’s okay! I’ve been lost in the library,
I’ve been looking at books.”

“Really”, I say, and I give you a look.

“Yes”, you say, “really! you have nothing to fear”

“But your friend has been calling”, I say, “and she’s weird!
She really should learn a more pleasant phone manner.
For god’s sake, her voice sounds like a jack hammer,
no inflection or pause, no matter what I say,
it’s as if she’d like to keeping talking all day,
listing all the books which are on hold for you
at the library…” and as if on cue, the phone rings again

“Don’t answer!” I say.

“But I have to see what else has come in today!
it could be Ondaatji, Humphries or Lane,
I don’t even remember, my list is insane!”

“Oka”, I say, “but your “friend” doesn’t even seem to know your whole name,
She just says your initials, like it’s some kind of game.”

“Relax” you say,
and you pick up the phone.
You listen intently,; then I hear you moan
and before I know it, you’re gone.

I hate to admit it, but I took to spying.
Well, I was convinced that you must be lying.
I hid behind a newspaper, near the magazine racks,
watching you ransack the shelves with feverish glee,
you were lost in new fiction,
you didn’t see me.
Where was this vixin? This voice on the phone,
this Library Lucy who’s making my baby moan?
But you never spoke to anyone, never gave anyone a glace,
like hard covers novels were your only romance.

So I returned home,
the phone rang, and who else
would it be but old Automated Mary,
your so-called friend, the loser at the library.

In desperation, I call you on your cell,
you whisper “hello?” And I say,
“What the hell — I’m begging you baby, please just come home.
And while you’re at it, can you tell your friend not to phone?
Come home for dinner, and give your lust a rest,
in the library
I get lost on your list
which is grasped in your fist,
like the money for your fine,”
I say”baby, stop reading for a moment,
and say you’ll be mine.”

© evalyn parry 2004 all rights reserved