Shelves and stacks and shelves of skulls, a Dewey
Decimal number inked on each unfurrowed forehead.
Here’s a skull
who, before he lost his fleshy parts
and lower bones, once
walked beside a river (we’re in the poetry section
now) his head full of love
and loneliness; and this smaller skull,
in the sociology stacks, smiling (they’re all
smiling)—it’s been empty
a hundred years. That slot
across the temple? An ax blow
that fractured
her here. Look at this one from the children’s shelves,
a baby, his fontanel
a screaming mouth and this time no teeth, no smile.
Here’s a few (history)—a murderer,
and this one—see how close their eye sockets!—a thief,
and here’s a rack of torturers’ skulls
beneath which a longer row of the tortured,
and look: generals’ row,
their epaulets
on the shelves to each side of them.
Shelves and shelves, stacks stacked on top of stacks,
floor above floor,
this towering high-rise library
of skulls, not another bone in the place
and just now the squeak of a wheel
on a cart piled high with skulls
on their way back to shelves
while in the next aisle
a cart filling with those about to be loaned
to the tall, broken-hearted man waiting
at the desk, his library card
face down before him.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Thomas Lux's poem A Library Of Skulls

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