Poem for the Woman in the Literary Stock Photo

Overcome with wool and book dust

yet bloomed milky from the eye of a cough,

you leave no fingerprints on the hardbacks,

a first edition Melville perpetually open

in your tweedy tweedy lap to the same page

that makes you ponder the vast and unknowable

sea beyond the bottle bottoms of your

glasses. To be trapped somewhere

between assuage and vetiver,

to be the mug of tea half drunk and always hot.

Virgin in the library, you were born

with the essential questions quiet in your mouth

in a shaft of light at Dewey 700.3,

tilt of your heart-shaped head,

the Prell sheen of your hair—

chestnut, acorn, oh the hues of brown—

you are the single page culled from the binding.

The Western canon heaves above

though you are weightless in your awe,

your petal-folded legs.

Equal parts naivete and knowledge,

all is asked that you empty and fill

at once, that you station the hall of dead

grammar. If you stand up, what hunger

will answer for you?

If you cup your ear into the bright silence,

a bolt of hooves red in their thunder

are wresting from the stone

capital, their velvet bodies can hear

the fierce meter of your mind.


Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of Little Spells (New Issues Press, 2015), James Laughlin Award winner How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press) and Salt Memory. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, poems have recently appeared in American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard, Kenyon Review Online, Mid-American Review, New American Writing, Puerto del Sol, Thrush and Verse Daily. For more, www.jenniferksweeney.com