THE EVOLVING CITY
Grisella M. Martinez
MLK JR. CENTRAL LIBRARY
I. Business, Economics and Vocations
The electronic queue forms here; gateway to “the internets”
to chess games and porn. The handles
read like West Coast liner notes, a peppering
of d-o-double-g’s and suggestive connotations.
Estimated wait time somewhere between
dogg4life and lonelyboyxxx.
II. Black Studies
The emptiest room in the building, except
for Dusty Rose. She rubber-stamps papers
with the rhythm of a metronome; tick-tock
low enough to avoid disturbing the dead
wood of the tables, the pages, and one reader’s peg-leg.
She cracks her spine, adjusts her pilled sweater
and sharpens a pencil. She sends her shavings
off the desk with a ceremonious sweep.
III. History, Travel and Geography
Lunch foregone, he pulls out the picture-book.
Gloves off; the plaid and dust of his labor
settle into the stacks. A History of Whales.
He sits and stares at Orcas, Big Blues, traces their tails
before propping them vertical, slouching
behind them, drifting back to a summer in Biloxi
splashing his sister, stomping her sand castle and telling her
that thirteen “ain’t nothin’ special”; she ran
away the next year.
IV. Washingtoniana & The Washington Star Collection
Sleeping Beauty carries too many bags; sometimes
she tires from the load, sets down by the microfiche
and stares at the wall (imaginary film reel running),
pretend-combs her nest of hair and picks her teeth. Eyes
the researchers with suspicion, and heavy-breathes between
cough and snuffle. She leaves a trail of granola.
V. Music and Recreation
Chocolate City’s finest patrol the room
like high-school hall monitors; checking
for eating, drinking and sleeping violators.
Shooing out the hustlers. Chastising the homeless.
Every glare delivering a silent demerit.
The mestizo warrior in a woman’s coat
about-faces when he sees them. Each prod of their batons
a reminder, that existence (or loitering) consists
of assembling a life out of more than periodicals.
VI. Information Desk
At the fifteen-minute terminals, there is no time
to search for minutiae; you must know what you are seeking.
The man dancing in place knows this and keeps his shuffling
to a minimum, hums to the waiting “When You Think of Love...”
alternating hands between sweatshirt and sweatpant pockets.
Before he leaves for the day, he announces
that he is using his turn, for Googling images of Britney Spears.
Grisella M. Martinez lives in Washington, D.C. She
is the recipient of a poetry grant from the DC Commission on the Arts
and Humanities and has been published in The Baltimore Review
and The Avatar Review. Her other passions include advocating
for immigrant rights and flamenco dance.
Published in Volume
8, Number 4, Fall 2007.