The libraries offend me

like the ER and the subway

smell the ER in my egg sandwich



in my hands

it fuzzes my tongue


The libraries I knew were exclusive

only the learned could decipher the shelves

the well bred congregated and prepared for

the GMAT edited our Chevening and Beit applications

that would transport us

across an ocean

to lecture halls

of ancient universities

that we did not realize

we had outgrown


The father of the daughter can’t hold it in

“What is that smell Jesus’

The police laugh

at the father and not at the smell

‘This is a hospital man come on’

It is boils desiccated all the pus wept out

pressing the soiled fabric into stiff origami shapes

it is paper gowns juiced and thrown into dustbins

it is a pair of boots at the foot of a bed

walking all over the ward scrubbing their noxious scent

through the hairs in our noses, on our heads,

sticking toes into our mouths

more alive than the shattered lad foaming through

battered lips I’m going home I’m going home

‘That’s not happening’ says the nurse

approaching the lad, sedates him with a sweet Caribbean baritone

as the hospital cop cowers behind his broad West African shoulders


I don’t idle in libraries

resentful of their egalitarianism

how why everybody allowed in

to wash underarms in the sink

and lie comatose on the armchair by the desk

reserved for laptop users

‘What is that smell Jesus’

I nip in pick up my reserved books and out


The daughter smells of fight and flight

how why the father cannot smell his daughter

her neglect and chronic disgrace

dusty ears and neck

piercings bite her lip

I put my head against her old head scarf

(she left home without her wig)

and inhale deeply

to show the father

that I know

the daughter is


Chiseche Salome