Public Librarian

Aaron Lee Soon Yong


Now that he’s decimated, you ask to interview me
so you can write him up even though
you never met him— nor me— before today.
Well, he was forty, barely qualified,
always wore that dewy grin
every time you met him in the hallway, whether four or
five or six times a week. He made his own coffee
at four every afternoon, regular as clockwork—
it’s only slightly worse
than the five-dollar stuff downstairs,
though you have to be your own barista.
The headcount in his department was one.
So he didn’t report to me, not really.

He did try his best, this fellow you’re asking about.
He was sluggish in the morning
and his work, muddy in the evening.
So much of our work is unfulfilling.

Not knowing how long it would take to die,
he sometimes slipped into the copy room
to snatch at some respite, inhaling papery air
and heaving up his fatigue like unwanted breakfast.

All in all, he was just another poor working stiff,
a luckless fugitive from the wheel of fortune.
In the last few weeks it was obvious
that his life was so unfair,
good cheer was obviously out of the question.
He stopped reporting for duty,
we exchanged messages via phone
and I waited to be told of a good time to visit.
That’s all I have to say.
I see you wrote it on a sheet of paper.
No, I won’t put my signature to it.
It’s all fiction, anyway. Life is.
Ask us again tomorrow, see what we have to say.