Cuyama Branch Public Library, c. 1915
The entire collection consists of several dozen
volumes crammed into a rickety shelf, and this recent
shipment of several dozen more, heaped
on a table top like a bushel of corn cobs.
The librarian, a bluff, weathered woman in her fifties
has passed out the new arrivals to an unlikely group
of patrons: a gaping child of two, his prim mother,
a fading man with a big mustache, a beribboned girl,
and three farmhands who look as though the tome
they’re meant to be enjoying is upside down.
A rug tacked up in back of the low-ceilinged
single room suggests some dark mystery,
but it’s probably just the librarian’s closet,
containing a few more bedraggled dresses
and a carpetbag for leaving when this tiny town realizes
it’s not big enough for words.
After the Edson Smith Photo Collection Cuyama Branch Public Library
David Starkey served as Santa Barbara’s 2009-2011 Poet Laureate and is Director of the Creative Writing Program at Santa Barbara City College. He is Co-editor and Publisher of Gunpowder Press, as well as the author of eight full-length poetry collections. Also by this poet “Man with Briefcase, 1962“