David Starkey

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