Little librarian lady, last time I saw you
You stamped my book at circulation:
The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca. I was going
Through some shit, and I sought clarity
From the Romans who, in my narrow view,
Grasped how to suffer without tears. This was
Months ago, before you were diagnosed
And showing up to work in a wheelchair,
So back then what did I tease you about?
Whether you planned to see Thor: Ragnarok
Dressed as the Enchantress, and you smiled.
I don’t know anything about you, Frieda,
Except you are kind and fun to chat with
And you remind me of the cracker girls I
Stomped around Tampa with as a kid.
We used to shoot pellets into stingrays
In the brackish waters of the Hillsborough
Near the old stadium on MLK Boulevard.
So I guess you conjure nostalgia in my mind
Whenever I see you, pale thing. I won’t see you
Again, though. Your co-worker says you died,
And my Seneca is overdue, fine growing.
I was going to ask you to make it disappear
Like you always did as I quizzed you on who
Your favorite Star Trek captain or Doctor was.
Now I have this book, heavy like a stone,
And in the library, the sun streaming
Through glass windows, I open it and read:
Wherever there is a human being, there is
An opportunity for kindness. I think of
Seneca mentoring Nero, whose name means
Cruelty. I recall you at your computer, smiling,
Waving me forward. The sentence I just read
Sits on a page damp with tears.
Jarret Keene is an English instructor at UNLV.