Wednesday in a Church Library by Rachel Belth

The books are older than I. Some have seen
both world wars from their perch on the shelf,
bleached spines turned slowly to a dust
that smells of honey and nutmeg.
Here is written the history of the world’s birth.
They say From the beginning of time, each
second was a second. You can measure them
in teaspoons, a straight line to where it all began with a word
and a flash. They are certain of this.

In the hallway, the automatic lights
click off, sucked back
into the ceiling to wander
together around the dust in the attic.
They leave shadows that watch
from behind the bathroom door and the
coat rack at how the light falls
from the library doorway
in a neat parallelogram.

Just outside the window,
boys I know are shooting free throws.

Isaac stands with a ball poised on his hand
like a surrogate sun heading west.
His knees coil and release and Steven
runs toward the basket,
reaches into a halt all sinew and elastic
as the ball falls through the net like an answer.
Their shouts and the arrhythmic thud and
whack of basketball against concrete then
backboard are solid enough to touch.

Just outside the window,
boys I know are shooting free throws.

I cup this sound in my palms and save
it against the next three days,
here alone with the attentive shadows
and the hum of the thermostat,
the books and their dusty pages,
until the world turns around again
with the basketball sun still in the West
and the lights in the hallway forget
I am here.

Just outside the window,
boys I know are shooting free throws.

Rachel Belth is an instructional designer, creative nonfiction writer, and poet. Her work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, *82 Review, and Embodied Effigies, among other places. She writes from a south-facing window in Columbus, Ohio.

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