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ELIZABETH SMITHER

Why I became a librarian

 

‘You see, I don’t believe that libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that has been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians.’

‘Gorilla Librarians’ Monty Python

 

Magnified on the high blank wall behind

the escalator a young man reads and grins

turns his face towards the Information desk.

 

I see his shoulders lift and settle back.

One hand sweeps back a lock of hair.

Once more he looks at us and grins.

 

Are we gorillas then? I wish

in my black uniform I was

and could swing up the escalator after him

 

proffering the book I feel he should read:

Thoughts of Primates about Humans, or

Our Animal Natures, perhaps, where literature goes

 

to hold in thrall and satisfy. We need

more panthers as librarians. Or lions

forgiving fines with tossing manes, giraffes

 

to reach down the highest books, a monkey

screeching at a joke in it. Why did

I become a librarian if it wasn’t

 

to hide myself in a gorilla suit, to pick

at facts like animals picking dandruff-

like salt from one another’s fur

 

and to go on – this is one profession that

never leaves the animal nature alone –

picking and delving through the days until

 

the silent communion of after-hours’ tomes

falls at our feet like autumn leaves

and when the stars and moon come out

the library joins in their hum in unison.

 

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