DAY THIRTY-FIVE – Jack Houston

Working in the Library, or A Call to Arms

I walk past Languages with an armful of books
to put The A to Z of Eating Out by Joseph Connolly,

into its rightful place: 394.12. Then Women
in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits,

Leanne Shapton & 639 others, goes back
at 391.2. These non-fiction shelves teem

with likewise lifestyle titles. But, down the way
a little, at 364.1523:

Ghettocide by Jill Leovy, subtitled: Investigating a Homicide
Epidemic and FAM: Rolling in a London Girl Gang

by Chyna, both 364.1066 – tell tales of a war
fought under the noses of the fashionable diners.

Until finally, the last book in my arm,
a well-thumbed copy of Life in the United Kingdom:

A Journey to Citizenship, finds its place: 323.62. Always popular
that one. Its many copies flying off the shelves like flocks of starlings.

Having shelved, I sit back at the desk in the juvenile section
(the library being open-planned) but continue to wander

through fresh-tilled fields
of economic potential, past a small copse

in which an empire’s crimes
rustle the leaves of racist trees,

down to the cool water of the stream
of class & entitlement in 21st century Britain.

Here I drink deep, but the water’s sullied.
Getting up off my knees, I can make out,

in the distance, a factory upstream, wracked in smoke,
pumping bile. But then a little girl, about ten?,

hair in pretty braids, eyes sparkling like jewels,
approaches the children’s counter and says,

‘This colouring pen isn’t working,
what are we going to do?’



Although they recently had to have Ralph’s testicles removed after the dog got into one too many fights, Jack Houston and his partner have had a baby, so they don’t feel so bad about it. He is also a poetry editor at Nutshell magazine.

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