my mother the librarian

my mother the librarian


maybe because she was raised poor,
maybe because for the first decade of her life
mao ripped away her expression, her roses, identity–
brainwashed, is the word she uses now, but

my mother keeps everything

like the freckle in her eye
that has been examined
by many doctors
extracted by none,
she kept it as if it were
my grandmother’s gift to her

in her fourth grade class a boy shoved a pencil
so hard into her arm,
you can still see the moss green lead tip
through her opal skin

this is why, she told me once,
i was born with words in my veins
“and it hurts but you must cut them open
to write”cultural revolution

at my age, she trained for a job at the library, read
tolstoy and hugo and austen for the first time, left
for a man who sat behind her in class and
when asked why he fell in love, just said,
“she was quiet”

now in the second half of her life,
she’s back to organizing stories by last names, by subject,
tending to soft browned pages fraying with age

my mother, born a keeper of words,
watched her favorite books burn on the street in 1966
still too young, she says, to know exactly what it was
she was losing

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